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Humanitarian crisis in Mali: Overmilitarized and overshadowed

Source: Refugees International
Country: Mali

As insurgent violence in the north rages on, anti-government elements have spread south into central Mali. The number of IDPs has jumped from 38,000 to over 187,000 in two years.

Alexandra Lamarche

Mali has been the scene of perpetual conflict and displacement for nearly eight years. In January 2012, tensions in the marginalized north came to a head when rebels took over almost a third of the country. Frustrated over the government’s failure to quash the rebellion, soldiers in the capital city of Bamako overthrew the president. As a mix of rebels and terrorist groups moved south toward the capital, France intervened and was subsequently joined by African Union forces. Shortly thereafter, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was launched. Together, these interventions have restored some semblance of peace and government control, but the country’s northern and central regions remain trapped in cycles of violence.

In 2015, months of difficult negotiations between the Malian government and coalitions of armed groups culminated in the Agreement of Peace and Reconciliation. The accord offered hope for investment in the north, the decentralization of authority and service provision, and improved governance, but much of its promise remains undelivered. International troop contributors and donor governments continue struggling to present a unified front and convince the Malian government to fulfill its responsibilities under the peace deal or expand its authority in rural areas. As a result, the government in Bamako runs the very real risk of further marginalizing and alienating communities outside of the capital.

Nearly eight years after the onset of the crisis, the international community remains heavily focused on stabilization and counterterrorism, at times to the detriment of the worsening humanitarian situation. As insurgent violence in the north rages on, anti-government elements have spread south into central Mali, where they have exacerbated intercommunal tensions and dissatisfaction with the Malian government, dividing communities and breeding violence. As this trend continues, the number of Malians displaced by violence continues to climb. As of September 2019, 187,139 Malians were internally displaced, compared to 38,000 only two years ago.

On their part, humanitarian organizations struggle to effectively provide for the 3.2 million Malians in need of assistance this year alone. Aid efforts are hindered by underfunding and the complex security environment. However, opportunities exist at the local level to broker access to communities in need. Although humanitarians can do little to mitigate certain threats—particularly those posed by terrorists or kidnappers—they can improve access to certain areas through highly localized negotiations with community power brokers.

Similarly, security actors like MINUSMA struggle to gain and maintain the trust of communities. Their use of Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) to build community support has blurred the lines between the international stabilization presence and humanitarian actors. UN peacekeepers and humanitarians must strengthen civil-military coordination as part of a wider effort to more clearly delineate and communicate their roles and responsibilities to the communities in which they operate. These efforts are essential if humanitarians are to build the acceptance and maintain the neutrality required to access populations in crisis.

There is no purely military solution to the crisis in Mali. In addition, though international humanitarian aid must be strengthened, Mali’s citizens also require a government willing and able to meet the needs of its people. The state must address the grievances at the root of the conflict and implement the terms of the peace agreement in a timely and transparent fashion.


South Sudan: US$1.5 billion needed to address the humanitarian needs of 5.6 million people in 2020

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: South Sudan, Sudan

Some 7.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance or protection and 3.7 million are displaced inside or outside of the country.

Response Plan Overview

The cumulative effects of years of prolonged conflict, chronic vulnerabilities and weak essential services have left 7.5 million people – more than two thirds of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance. Nearly 4 million people remain displaced:

1.5 million internally and 2.2 million as refugees in neighbouring countries. Limited availability and a lack of access to health services have largely contributed to one of the highest under-five mortality rates (90.7 deaths per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality rates (789 deaths per 100,000 live births) worldwide. The country remains in a critical period of unprecedented severe food insecurity with 6.4 million people considered food insecure, and with malnutrition rates of 16 per cent – surpassing the global emergency threshold.
Protection concerns remain significant, with affected populations expressing fear over persistent insecurity, protection threats, human rights violations and gender-based violence (GBV).
In 2020, the humanitarian operation will focus on three overarching strategic objectives (SOs) aimed at responding to the needs of 5.6 million vulnerable populations as a result of the crisis: (1) Reduce morbidity and mortality, as well as suffering from protection threats and incidents; (2) Facilitate safe, equitable and dignified access to critical cross-sectoral basic services; and (3) Enable vulnerable people to recover from crisis, seek solutions to displacement and build resilience to acute shocks and chronic stresses through targeted programming in specific geographic locations.
To fully meet these objectives, the humanitarian community will need US$1.54 billion in 2020. This Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is based on an enhanced, intersectoral analysis of needs across population groups. A rigorous prioritization approach has been applied in identifying the geographical areas and activities included in the scope of the plan. As per the previous 2019 HRP, the Humanitarian Country Team has agreed to focus on activities that can be scaled up, depending on the availability of funds.
The response approach strengthens multisectoral planning and delivery, mainstreams protection activities across the strategic objectives and focuses on strengthening accountability to affected people (AAP). A robust intersectoral mechanism has been put in place to ensure that targeted populations and beneficiaries feel informed and consulted throughout the entire humanitarian programme cycle. Through a targeted community communication and engagement plan, it aims to protect vulnerable communities in high risk areas from sexual exploitation and abuse. A focused approach to incorporating age, gender and diversity considerations will be applied in all aspects of partners’ response. This includes prioritizing vulnerable population groups such as female-headed households, providing safe spaces for children and taking into account the needs of the elderly and persons with disabilities during the response. Cash and voucher assistance (CVA) will be used by a number of sectors as a modality of response aimed at improving livelihoods of local communities and businesses and strengthening local markets.
In 2020, partners are enhancing their efforts in intersectoral collaboration and impact monitoring. The intersectoral severity analysis provided for the identification of prioritized geographic locations displaying the highest severity of need. Regular situation and response monitoring will provide the Humanitarian Country Team with timely evidence for operational decision-making.
Through consolidated humanitarian hubs, humanitarians will provide secure access to hard-to-reach locations and enable consistent delivery of quality integrated basic services to underserved and vulnerable populations. Subnational inter-agency coordination will enable operational decentralization of response activities and facilitate the involvement of affected populations.
In support of the humanitarian-development nexus, partners will aim to ensure that humanitarian activities are aligned and contribute to the shared objectives and collective outcomes of development programming through the United Nations Cooperation Framework (UNCF) (2019–2021).


Immediate action needed as millions face hunger in Southern Africa

Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies
Country: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe

The countries with the most significant increase in food insecurity are Zambia and Zimbabwe, with 2.3 million and 3.6 million people respectively suffering from acute food shortages.

Pretoria/Nairobi/Geneva, 12 December 2019 – Hunger is threatening the lives of 11 million people in Southern Africa due to deepening drought and in the region. Red Cross teams across Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia are scaling up their response to emergency and crisis levels of food insecurity.

“This year’s drought is unprecedented, causing food shortages on a scale we have never seen here before,” said Dr Michael Charles, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Southern Africa cluster. “We are seeing people going two to three days without food, entire herds of livestock wiped out by drought and small-scale farmers with no means to earn money to tide them over a lean season.”

The countries with the most significant increase in food insecurity from last year are Zambia and Zimbabwe, with 2.3 million and 3.6 million people respectively suffering from acute food shortages.

Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia have this year declared drought emergencies. In Eswatini, 24 per cent of its rural population is suffering from food shortages. The situation is set to worsen due to late or no rain in the region and crop production is down by 30 percent for the 2019/2020 harvest.

In October, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal in Zambia to bring relief to those most affected by the persistent drought and is now widening its appeal for emergency funding to cover a further four countries affected by unprecedented levels of drought and hunger.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement already has ongoing operations on food insecurity in Eswatini, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe reaching 207,055 people (41,411 households). This newest appeal will broaden its reach to eight southern African countries and will target individuals not reached by other interventions in the region.

“There is a major gap in investment in resilience and community-level capacities in countries hardest hit, including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini,” Dr Charles said. “As a humanitarian collective, we must take immediate action to respond to millions who face imminent starvation. Even more importantly, it is our responsibility to strengthen communities’ resilience and ability to adapt to the current challenges. Otherwise, we will never end hunger in the region.”

The IFRC is calling for 7.7 million Swiss francs to mitigate the food crisis in the region. The overall objective of the multi-country Emergency Appeal is to provide immediate food assistance and livelihood recovery support to the most affected households in the targeted communities for a period of 14 months.

Media contacts

In Pretoria: Sanja Gohre, +27 82 777 4161,

In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, +254 731 688 613,

In Geneva: Laura Ngo-Fontaine, +41 79 570 4418,


Algeria: Prominent Rights Defender Imprisoned on Election Eve

Algerians take part in an anti-government demonstration, on April 5, 2019 in the capital Algiers after the resignation of ailing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika. 

© 2019 Louiza Ammi/abaca/Sipa USA

(Beirut) – The Algerian authorities should immediately release a prominent rights defender arrested on December 10, 2019 and convicted and sentenced the same day, Human Rights Watch said today.

Kaddour Chouicha was sentenced to one year in prison on charges that appeared to be related solely to his criticism of military and political authorities and his participation in a political protest. Chouicha, vice president of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights and president of its Oran section, has been active in the Hirak protest movement.  

“Chouicha appears to have been convicted simply for criticizing the armed forces, making political statements, and participating in a political protest,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

More than 120 protesters arrested for their peaceful roles in the Hirak movement have either been sent to prison or are in pretrial detention. Among them are well-known figures such as Lakhdar Bouregga, a veteran of Algeria’s independence war, Karim Tabbou, a political leader, and Abdelwahab Fersaoui, president of the Youth Action Rally organization and a human rights defender.

The Hirak protest movement, initially formed in February to oppose President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s plan to seek a fifth term, has remained active since forcing his resignation in April.

Security forces first arrested Chouicha on October 24 in Oran, Algeria. At the time, he told Human Rights Watch that police detained him as he participated in a sit-in in front of the Cité Djamel Courthouse in Oran, when he went to his car to fetch a banner expressing solidarity with prisoners of opinion. An officer informed him that he was under investigation for “participation in a gathering of an unarmed nature” and for “distributing documents harmful to the national interest.” The police released him at around 6 p.m. the same day, after confiscating his phone.

On December 9, the police called Chouicha and asked him to come to the police station in Oran the following day to retrieve his telephone, said his lawyer, Noureddine Khemisti. But when Chouicha reported to the police station on December 10, officers placed him under arrest and transferred him to the Sidi Djamel first instance court in Oran.

A prosecutor at the same court charged him with “rebellion” under Article 183 of the penal code, based on Facebook posts he published in November opposing the presidential elections and criticizing the army, and “compromising the integrity of the national territory” under Article 79 of the penal code, stemming from his participation in a protest on December 4 outside a hall where a presidential candidate had organized a rally.

Khemisti said that the prosecutor referred the case to a judge using an “immediate appearance” (comparution immédiate) procedure, which normally applies to the cases of people caught in the act of committing a crime. A judge at the court convicted Chouicha that afternoon on both charges and sentenced him to one year in prison at the Oran prison.

Chouicha has appealed the verdict, Khemisti said.