April 6 2012

Situation in Mali deteriorating – children's safety is first priority

06/04/2012 – The people of Mali are forced to stand in line for gas, food and cash; up to 200,000 are fleeing the rebels advancing from the North, where the SOS Children's Village in Socoura near Mopti was evacuated on 1 April. All SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools are open, and the SOS Children's Villages themselves are stocking up supplies. Additional security staff was hired for the SOS programme in Socoura.

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The 140 children who were evacuated from the SOS Children's Village Socoura Mopti have been taken in by families in the other two Malian villages - Photo: Sandrine Houalet
The children who were evacuated from the SOS Children’s Village in Socoura near Mopti are settling into their new routine in the SOS Children’s Villages in Sanankoroba and in Kita and are attending the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools. “The trip was hasty and tiring. I brought all my school books. I never leave my brothers and sisters; we all walk to and from school together. I like the new family we are with, they made room for us”, told one of the children.

Sanctions and embargoes imposed on Mali since the military coup on 22 March are making life hard for the population, who are forced to queue for basic goods and suffer frequent power cuts, as the electricity network of the country is partly fed with fuel which is already being rationed. Work at the SOS Children’s Villages Mali offices is also affected. There is a generator available, but of course it also depends on gasoline supply. The SOS Children’s Villages of Kita and Sanankoroba are stocking supplies even though food price increases so far have not been alarming. However, the director of SOS Children’s Villages in Mali believes that the situation will be dramatic if the embargo is not lifted in one week.

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Sanctions and several hundreds of thousands of displaced people have triggered fears of food shortages - Photo: Emanuelle Lavenac
Shortages of essential goods may also be triggered by the displacement of more than 200,000 people since January according to the World Food Programme, due to the fighting in the Northern Mali. Shots were heard on Tuesday around Mopti and from the SOS Children’s Village in Socoura. Many are now fleeing the area via the road south to Segou and Bamako.

The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School and Kindergarten in Socoura were opened on 3 April for the children of the local community thanks to the school and kindergarten staff, but the children stayed at home regardless due to the fighting that was briefly heard. Additional security staff has been hired in order to ensure a rotation of 4 during the day and 6 at night.

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Many have fled the fighting in the North and are moving South - Photo: Sandrine Houalet
For Mr. Abdou Karim Keita, SOS Continental Food Aid and Security Advisor for Sahel, who returned recently from Mali, “unless peace is back by May 2012, the rapidly deteriorating situation is going to have dramatic effects on the population as the gap to cover the adequate food and nutrition needs is enormous in spite of the emergency plan set up by the Malian Government before the coup. 3.5 million people are in food insecurity in Mali. The biggest concern is the Kayes region - where SOS Children’s Villages has opened a new family strengthening programme recently - Koulom, and the Mopti and Koulikoro regions”.

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The SOS Children's Village in Socoura near Mopti was evacuated on 1 April - Photo: SOS Archives
Mali is a large country, with 15 million inhabitants facing significant development challenges and ranked 160th out of 169 countries in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI). About 69 % of the population is below the poverty line and more than one fifth of all school-aged children do not attend school; three quarters of them are girls. More than 80% of the rural population is dependent on subsistence farming and livestock herding. Children are the most affected by these challenges.