Good afternoon. And thank you for the warm welcome you have shown me here in Bamako.
The United States is gravely concerned by the multiple crises that are affecting the people of Mali: a political crisis following the military coup d’état of March 21, a security crisis as a result of conflict in the North and the actions of several armed groups, a food security crisis affecting populations across the country, all resulting in a complex humanitarian crisis that is affecting the people of Mali as well as its neighbors in the Sahel. 4.6 million Malians face severe hunger; 175,000 Malian children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition; and more than 450,000 have fled their homes because of ongoing violence coupled with food insecurity.
The mission of my visit here in Mali this week is to ensure that the United States is doing what it can to help the Malian people affected by drought and violence, as well as those living in other affected countries across the Sahel.
The United States is providing $355 million in humanitarian assistance this year to help some of the 18.7 million people across the Sahel that have been touched by this crisis.
Addressing humanitarian needs in Mali is a vital piece of our regional response and will have great ramifications for the future stability and food security of West Africa.
Coupled with the hundreds of thousands of people now seeking refuge in neighboring countries, we are deeply concerned that ongoing instability and humanitarian crisis here in Mali could further exacerbate an already dire regional food crisis.
Together with the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, David Gressly, I spent yesterday in Mopti, where you may know that nearly 32,000 Malians are seeking refuge from violence and instability. I saw firsthand the large-scale disruption and suffering caused by the ongoing conflict. In the last few days I have had the opportunity to talk with those whose lives have been uprooted and put on hold—and with the women who have moved their children across the country to protect them or because they were no longer free to work. I can assure you that America’s commitment to helping Malians is unwavering.
The United States is providing more than $68 million in humanitarian aid to help people in need throughout Mali in 2012. This includes nutrition supplements for malnourished children, food to hungry families, as well as health care, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene supplies. Where markets are functioning, we are providing vouchers that allow Malians to purchase food and basic supplies at their local markets, and we are building food security to help families better weather this storm and future storms.
We recognize the vast humanitarian needs in this country related to regional food insecurity, and know that an estimated 80 percent of those needs are concentrated in southern Mali where 90 percent of Malians reside along with thousands who have fled conflict.
Today’s food security crisis in Mali and in the greater Sahel region is not the first, and we know there will continue to be shocks—another drought, failed harvests—that threaten to push it back into crisis again.
That is why, even as we work to save lives, we are also working to ensure that our humanitarian assistance helps the people of this region for the long term by building resilience to future shocks. We are working with international donors and with our partners to connect our relief efforts with our development work so that today’s emergency response helps ensure a more secure future for the people of Mali and throughout the Sahel.
We remain also concerned about an uptick in cholera and other waterborne diseases, which could further complicate the humanitarian situation. And we have experts focused on the locust infestation that—if left unabated—could potentially destroy growing crops in Mali, prolonging the food insecurity crisis.
We responded early to the food crisis in response to early warnings with market sensitive approaches, support for livelihoods, and health services. We are now working to meet what has become a more complex set of urgent needs and to help Mali and its people become more resilient to whatever shocks lie ahead.
The United States is committed to working alongside the international community to support the people of Mali in this time of crisis and in years to come.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this afternoon and I look forward to your questions.