Top UN relief official in Mali condemns ongoing attacks against humanitarian workers

A displaced woman from northern Mali in the Sahel, waits at a temporary shelter near Mopti's main bus station. Photo: UNDP/Nicolas Meulders

13 November 2015 – In the wake of more than two dozen attacks against aid workers and their facilities in the past months, the top United Nations relief official in Mali, Mbaranga Gasarabwe, today condemned the increasing violence against humanitarian organizations in the strife-torn country and warned that such attacks are violations of international law.

“Hindering the work of humanitarian organizations affects first and foremost the most vulnerable people – the men, women and children for whom humanitarian assistance is often a question of survival,” said Ms. Gasarabwe, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Mali.

In a press release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), she described the most recent incident, saying that just two nights ago, an explosive device was set off at the entrance of a building housing a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Menaka, in the Gao region. Fortunately the explosion caused no injuries and material damage was limited, however the incident is nevertheless part of a recent disturbing trend, said OCHA.

According to the UN relief wing, since the beginning of the year, humanitarian personnel and facilities have been targeted with violence some 30 times.

“Attacks against the personnel and facilities of humanitarian organizations are violations of international humanitarian law,” declared Ms. Gasarabwe.

“The recent signing of the peace agreement by all parties to the conflict represents an opportunity to build a lasting peace in Mali,” she said.

“Humanitarian actors have a key role to play in continuing to respond to urgent needs and strengthen the resilience of people and communities, while longer-term recovery and development actions are being implemented. Areas that were difficult to access during the conflict are now more easily accessible. This will allow for more aid to reach the people in need.”

Some 140 aid organizations work in Mali, about 100 of which are located in the north. They provide essential water, food, health services, education, shelter and livelihood support to hundreds of thousands of people. Their work is guided by the core humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality.

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