ICRC president Peter Maurer has begun a visit to Niger and Mali in order to assess and be in a position to report to the international community on the situation from a humanitarian viewpoint in those two countries.
Mr Maurer, who arrived yesterday, will visit Niamey and Agadez in Niger before continuing on to Mopti and Bamako in Mali. He will conclude his visit on 24 October.
Mr Maurer will meet with senior government officials in both countries and with leaders of the two countries' Red Cross Societies. The primary topics will be the consequences in humanitarian terms of the Malian conflict and the ICRC's operations to meet the immense needs of the people affected.
"The ICRC is very concerned about the conflict's effects on the people living in northern Mali," said Mr Maurer upon his arrival. "The crisis is also affecting other countries in the Sahel, such as Niger." Thousands of people had fled the fighting, he said, either to safer parts of Mali itself or across the border into Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. His visit was intended to attract international attention to the plight of people exhausted and weakened by a succession of food shortages and by the conflict raging in northern Mali.
The ICRC has been distributing food in northern Mali since July and plans to reach 420,000 people by the end of the year. It continues furnishing medicines and other essential items for the hospital in the city of Gao, as well as for community health-care facilities throughout the north.
President Maurer's visit follows the appeal for further funds (27 million dollars) launched by the ICRC in September for its work in Mali and the broader region. "The funds currently available, said Mr Maurer, are unfortunately not enough for the humanitarian aid needed".
ICRC staff are hard at work in Niamey and Agadez, in Niger, and in Bamako, Gao and Mopti, in Mali. The organization also has personnel based in Kidal and Timbuktu.
For an interactive map of our operations in the region, click here.