The suffering of millions of people in Mali and the wider Sahel region is rooted in the deadly combination of conflict and the climate crisis. Caught between advancing deserts, erratic weather and violence, entire communities are being forced to leave their homes, livestock and livelihoods behind.
During her first operational visit as president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mirjana Spoljaric warned that pressure is rising in the Sahel on both those who have been displaced and the host communities sharing their water, food and land. This pressure must be mitigated so that resentment doesn’t build and fracture links between communities.
“These families are desperate for a better way of life. I sat with women who had to bury their children as they were fleeing their village. Many lost husbands and brothers. Humanitarian assistance is limited, and they don’t see a way out. We have to break this vicious circle of climate change and violence that is preventing people from living on their lands,” Ms Spoljaric said.
Bintou, a mother of 10 whose husband died of thirst as the family fled their village, lives in a simple, makeshift camp outside Gao with five of her children; the other five are dispersed around the region.