Malian villagers come to collect water in Koygouma as a delegation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) visits the Timbuktu region, 6 May 2019 | Photo: EPA/NICOLAS REMENE
Malian villagers come to collect water in Koygouma as a delegation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) visits the Timbuktu region, 6 May 2019 | Photo: EPA/NICOLAS REMENE

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said the number of internally displaced persons in Mali tripled between 2017 and 2018, and figures have continued to rise in the first months of 2019, with hundreds of thousands of people who need humanitarian assistance.

The number of people forced to flee their homes in Mali increased by 360 percent last year because of violence and military operations, according to a new report by the Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC). 


In a statement, NRC said the number of people displaced has continued to increase in the first months of 2019, resulting in alarming humanitarian needs. "We have never witnessed such high levels of displacement since the signing of the peace deal in 2015 and this is likely to worsen in 2019," said Hassane Hamadou, NRC country director in Mali. "This year has already been marked by several attacks on civilians; those who survive often flee their villages, having lost their loved ones and livelihoods." 

Alarming trend of escalating displacement 

NRC said the number of people displaced by violence and conflicts went from 35,000 in December 2017 to 126,000 in December 2018. Since January of this year, the figures have grown even more, with 133,000 people who have been newly displaced. This alarming trend of escalating displacement in central and northern Mali is mostly due to attacks by non-state armed groups, threats and intimidations, inter-communal conflicts and military operations. 

For the past year, the NRC has been raising the alarm about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Mali and warned against the disproportionate military approach in the region. 

'Protecting civilians must be the priority'

"Civilians bear the brunt of the violence as well as of the military operations carried out in central and northern Mali. Protecting these civilians and responding to their basic needs must be a priority for the international community if we want to avert a humanitarian catastrophe," warned Hamadou. 

NRC said that as of May 2019, less than 20 percent of funds to respond adequately to humanitarian needs have been received. At this pace, millions of people in need will not receive humanitarian assistance in Mali this year. This is the second year in a row that new humanitarian needs exceed available resources.
 

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