GENEVA, Switzerland, April 27, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Despite major security constraints, the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross continue to help people affected by armed violence in northern Mali.
Jürg Eglin heads the ICRC's regional delegation for Mali and Niger. "Access to health care, food and water is as difficult as ever in this region where food is short," he explains. People are still having trouble getting hold of water in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.
"On 21 April, a Mali Red Cross convoy was able to deliver food and medicines to Timbuktu Hospital," continued Mr Eglin. "We absolutely have to get access to the people affected by the violence, but we don't yet have the security guarantees we need before launching a larger-scale humanitarian operation."
The context is unstable and complex. The ICRC is currently ensuring that all parties understand and accept the neutral, independent, humanitarian work of the ICRC and the Mali Red Cross. It will only be possible to fully meet the huge needs in this region if the parties involved accept this role and give solid security guarantees.
Since 13 April, the ICRC has:
• sent a convoy from Niamey in Niger (on 17 April) that delivered medicines and medical supplies to Gao Hospital, enabling the hospital to treat between 300 and 500 sick patients and around 100 casualties of the fighting;
• made an ICRC nurse and an ICRC midwife available to the medical team at Gao Hospital;
• delivered medicines to the main health centre in Ansongo, south of Gao, to help the centre resume its work;
• sent a surgeon and a doctor to the areas of Gao and Timbuktu, to treat people injured in the fighting;
• supplied some 5,000 litres of fuel per day to keep the water system in the town of Gao operating and prevent water shortages;
• sent a team to identify the most urgent needs in Kidal.
The ICRC is maintaining smaller teams than usual in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu, so that it can continue operations in northern Mali. The organization has just opened an office in Mopti and is still operating in Bamako, the Malian capital. Finally, the ICRC is helping Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger.