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Aid critical to addressing humanitarian situation in Mali: UN official


14:26, February 27, 2013

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- A UN official on Tuesday said that people in Mali are in urgent need of assistance to rebuild their lives in the wake of the conflict, urging donor partners to contribute funds generously.

John Ging, the operations director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said at a press briefing here: "We need the generosity of the humanitarian community to enable an effective humanitarian and development response."

Ging, recently back from a four-day visit to Mali to assess the humanitarian situation there, said that security and safety were the top concerns for those living in the African country.

"The people of the north are very traumatized by the experience of the past year and are very much still in fear," he noted.

The crisis started in January of last year, when Islamic militants occupied the north of the country, taking advantage of the fighting that erupted between government and Tuareg forces. France launched a military intervention last month to dislodge the rebels, but the situation remains fragile.

Nearly 431,000 people in Mali have been displaced by the crisis, including 170,000 refugees, said the OCHA official.

Ging also said that addressing education needs is vital and that 700,000 children have been affected by the crisis. School buildings have suffered infrastructure damage and teachers have fled the north of the country.

"The disruption is very profound. The urgency to recover the education sector is a very high priority," he said.

The effects of the crisis have been compounded by the food insecurity that has plagued the country, located within the Sahel region that has been suffering from poor crop seasons due to the blistering summers.

There are 585,000 people in need of immediate food assistance and one million more at risk of food insecurity in the north, said Ging.

"The humanitarian response is not the solution for the people of Mali, development is the solution. But humanitarian response is needed urgently to lay the foundations upon which to build that solution," he added.

A humanitarian appeal has been launched for 373 million U.S. dollars, but the response has been poor, with only 17 million U.S. dollars received so far.

"We, as a result, have not been able to mobilize the effective humanitarian response on the scale of what is needed and that we have the opportunity to deliver on," said Ging.

"My message to our donor partners is that it is urgent that they release the funding that is so obviously needed, and that will have such a positive impact on the ground for people who have endured so much for so long," he said.

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