Mali crisis: Guide to the war and the needs of children

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the crisis in Mali and how World Vision is responding to the needs of affected children and families.

By Chris Huber, World Vision U.S.
Updated August 27, 2013 at 12:00am PDT

The people of Mali are preparing to inaugurate a new democratically elected president on September 4, as the country emerges from disastrous conflict that began with a military coup in March 2012.

More than a million people need immediate food assistance as a food crisis lingers.

Here’s a quick guide to understanding the complex situation in Mali, its impact on the Sahel food crisis, and World Vision’s response to the humanitarian needs of children and families.

What has happened since the coup?

Rebels seized northern Mali, imposing strict Islamic law in cities like Timbuktu. The African Union deployed troops in November 2012 to quell violence in the north.

In January 2013, the French military intervened to oust the militants. International donors pledged more than $4 billion to help Mali get back on its feet.

On June 18, rebels and the Malian government signed a cease-fire agreement.  And on July 1, a 12,600-strong U.N. military and police force took over to help stabilize the country.

On August 11, the Malian people peacefully elected Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as their new president in a runoff election. 

Before the coup, Mali’s democracy was considered a success story among West African nations.

How many people are still displaced from the fighting?

While many have returned home, the national Commission on Population Movements estimates about 342,000 Malians still are displaced within the country from the fighting.

In addition, another 175,000 people fled to the neighboring countries of Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

What problems do displaced families face? 

Most displaced people suffer from lack of food, drinking water, and other basic supplies. Their livelihoods have been disrupted, and they have little or no money for necessities.

Do people have enough to eat?

Mali and other Sahel countries suffered a devastating drought in 2011, leading to  severe food shortages.

The overall food situation has gotten better, thanks to improved rains in 2012, though circumstances remain precarious for millions. The 18 months of conflict has deepened the anguish for families already struggling to cope with crop loss and rising food prices.

Up to 700,000 Malian children younger than 5 are acutely malnourished.  Nearly 3.5 million Malians still are considered food-insecure as they face the June through September lean season. 

The U.N. estimates a total of 4.9 million children under 5 and pregnant mothers across the Sahel region remain severely undernourished.

How is World Vision responding to humanitarian needs?

World Vision is distributing food, kitchen utensils, soap, and other hygiene items to the displaced families. We also have resumed development programs  in Mali that were suspended because of the conflict.

More than 65,000 children are registered in World Vision child sponsorship programs in Mali; almost 21,000 of them are located in areas affected by fighting.

How much money is needed to adequately respond?

World Vision needs $15 million in donations to provide 150,000 people with emergency food aid, shelter, access to safe drinking water and improved hygiene facilities, and household necessities for six months.

Funding will also help families re-establish their livelihoods and malnourished children and pregnant moms quickly receive the nutrition they need.  

Three ways you can help

Pray for vulnerable children and families in Mali, especially for their protection from harm and for a means to escape the violence. Pray, too, for a peaceful end to the conflict.

Give a one-time donation to assist children and families in Mali and other struggling West African countries. Because World Vision has been awarded government grants, your gift to help provide emergency food, agricultural assistance, and other critical support will have four times the impact.

Give monthly to support children affected by war and conflict. Your monthly gift will help bring assistance to those in greatest need, like trauma counseling, nutritious food, clean water, medical care, protection for children living alone, and more.


  • The situation in Mali has begun to stabilize after months of violence following a coup in March 2012.
  • An estimated 353,000 Malians still are displaced within the country; nearly 175,000 people fled to the neighboring countries.
  • Nearly 3.5 million Malians are considered food-insecure as they face the lean season.
  • World Vision is responding to the needs of children and families.

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