In Menaka Cercle, an area of north-east Mali famed for its hot dry weather, water is scarce at the best of times. But the recent conflict has turned chronic shortages into an emergency.
Simmering tensions between the secular Tuareg group the Movement for the Liberation of Azawouad (MNLA) and Islamic sharia-oriented militias has spilled over into open conflict in the major cities of the north. The Islamic groups have taken control of the major cities of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu with the MNLA present only in rural areas. The risk of renewed conflict presents a security threat to the population, and makes the work of aid agencies challenging.
The new spate of fighting has brought increased hardship to the local population, including the cutting off their water supply. Menaka’s 22,000 residents, and an additional 4,000 displaced people, are now relying on just one water pump, after three others recently broke down. Engine-powered pumps are the only way of drawing water in a region where there are no sources of clean water close to the surface. But because of the conflict, technicians have fled the region, and tools, parts, and fuel have been looted, leaving the population unable to repair the pumps.
The IRC has started emergency fuel provision to the water pumps in Menaka, controlled through a local water committee to ensure that the pump is kept running to meet all of the town’s needs.
Severe shortages have also forced nearly 3,200 people in Menaka to use muddy ponds as their primary water source. With funding from Stichting Vluchteling (SV), an IRC team will be distributing 1,000 water purification kits to communities in this area to enable them to drink clean water and reduce the risk of disease.