Food is getting scarce in many of the markets in parts of the Gao region of northern Mali and stocks are likely to end in few weeks, according to Oxfam.
Communities have been facing shortages since last year’s drought and conflict and will struggle to afford or even to find enough food to eat if the Algerian border and roads remain closed and the north remains inaccessible.
“Communities are effectively cut off and if the situation continues then food stocks in the area will only last few weeks. Things are set to get worse for people who cannot or do not wish to leave and have been living in incredibly tough circumstances for almost a year” said Philippe Conraud, Oxfam Country Director in Mali.
The situation is acute in rural markets, in areas where people depend upon their livestock, and where a large part of Northern Mali’s population live. These markets, only supplied once a week, are no longer operating as usual and people are finding it difficult to sell their animals to get the cash they need.
Many traders have moved their remaining stocks from Gao to villages and communes outside of the town. Many have left Mali completely.
As current fighting moves north there is a growing fear that Gao will be the next center of conflict – forcing more people to flee their homes into areas where there will be limited access to food, drinking water and medical care.
A precarious future
They face a precarious future with few options of escape as the main public transportation services to the South and neighboring Niger has been suspended since the past 10 days.
“Most people left in the area are those who cannot afford to leave. If people are to receive urgently needed aid then humanitarian organisations need to be allowed into the conflict-affected zones. Borders with neighboring countries should be kept open and critical supply routes for food accessible. If help does not arrive soon then we may be seeing the start of a major humanitarian emergency,” added Mr. Conraud.