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Food security worsens in northern Mali due to conflict

  • Alert
  • Mali
  • May 10, 2012
Food security worsens in northern Mali due to conflict

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  • Summary
  • Situation

  • Summary

    Current and projected acute food insecurity in the northern regions of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal (see FEWS NET Mali’s April ‘12 Outlook report) is more severe and widespread than expected in March due to the impacts of late‐March conflict on livelihoods, markets, and humanitarian assistance. By mid‐April more than 240,000 people (~20 percent of the population of northern regions) were displaced. Of those, approximately 147,000 sought refuge in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Algeria. Assuming that prevailing civil insecurity persists, severe market disruptions will continue to limit household access to essential food and livelihood needs in the north. Displaced people and poor households in riverine areas and in agropastoral areas of Gao are likely to face the most severe food security outcomes; they are both further from main markets and subject to heavy banditry. Between January and April only assistance from poorly‐resourced local and Malian institutions was accepted, and the impact has not been significant. Additional emergency response above current levels is required to protect human lives and livelihoods.  


    The most important impact of conflict is on market functioning. Very poor and poor households in the north are highly vulnerable to these market disruptions as they purchase 45‐65 percent of their annual food needs from markets, particularly in the Nomadic and transhumant pastoralism zone (livelihood zone 2) and the agropastoral areas (zones 3, 4, and 6). Between March and April, the cost of trade increased significantly due to rampant theft. Key informants report that many local weekly markets have completely closed. Trade has been reduced to as little as 20 percent of typical levels. There has been a shift in supply away from smaller weekly markets to avoid banditry, meaning that physical access to markets has ben dramatically reduced. Formal and informal financial institutions were also looted, and banks are closed as far away as Mopti and Segou regions. Access to cash and credit is severely constrained. As a result of these combined factors, cereal prices at the end of April were between 50‐150 percent above late‐March prices in the northern regions with the most severe changes in Gao region. Livestock‐to‐cereal terms of trade have fallen as much as 50 percent in one month.  

    Food insecurity is most severe among the rural agropastoral households in the Fluvial rice and transhumant livestock rearing (agropastoral) livelihood zone (zone 3), the Timbuktu part of the Niger Delta/Lakes – rice and livestock rearing (agropastoral) zone (zone 6), and the Millet and transhumant livestock rearing zone (zone 4). In these areas, food insecurity is at Crisis levels (IPC 2.0 Phase 3), including significant household food consumption deficits, unusually high rates of acute malnutrition and/or the accelerated depletion of livelihood assets. Because both purchasing power (due to low 2011/12 production) and input availability will be low and civil insecurity risks will be high, investment in agriculture and derived demand for labor are expected to be 30‐50 percent of average. Therefore, even if rainfall and river levels are normal in these areas in 2012, food security outcomes are unlikely to improve significantly between now and September. Nomadic pastoralists (zone 1) of the far north will be mobile enough to access Algerian and Mauritanian markets and avoid conflict once rains replenish water sources and pastures in July. Urban areas are expected to face relatively better market access, labor opportunities, and  assistance than rural areas, though Crisis‐level outcomes are also possible.

    Immediate, additional emergency response above current levels is required to protect human lives and livelihoods. Assuming that the current security/political context persists with no major outbreaks of open conflict and limited humanitarian assistance, the severity of food insecurity is not expected to reach IPC 2.0 Phase 4 levels. However, a number of factors could significantly change this analysis, including: resumption of conflict, poor June‐September rainfall, additional major disruptions to humanitarian assistance, or locust or other pest attacks. 

    Figures Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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