Many more northern Malians are likely to face severe food shortages in the coming days and weeks if markets remain blocked by border and road closures, and humanitarian access remains limited, warn food security agencies.
The border with Algeria is officially closed as a result of the conflict that broke out on 11 January between Malian and French forces and Islamist groups that were occupying the north. As a result, the amount of food coming through has halved, according to the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) Vulnerability and Analysis Mapping Unit.
Algeria supplies almost all markets in Kidal Region in northeastern Mali with rice, couscous, oil and milk - the staple diet of northern Malians. While some trucks can get through, traders are reluctant to travel because of strict border controls and fear of further aerial bombardment, says the WFP analysis.
Mopti markets also supply northern regions with significant imported rice stocks and millet - availability of which has dropped by 40 percent in Kidal since January 2012. They also cost 120 percent more than the five-year average, according to WFP.
“Should the situation last, food security is foreseen to worsen severely in the coming days,” says WFP.
Some Gao (central-northeastern Mali) and Kidal residents tried to flee across the Algerian border but were forced to return.
Algerian trucks are currently in Kidal selling off their remaining food stocks.