Prices of food and fuel in northern Mali have risen because existing supplies are drying up and traders who deserted the area in the wake of the military operations there have not returned. The shortages also followed the looting of shops and warehouses during the operations, the international agency, Oxfam, reported Monday in a statement, obtained by PANA here.
The agency also said there were increasing reports of reprisal attacks.
It said many food traders, who are predominantly Arabs or ethnic Tuaregs, fled the area as French troops advanced.
They were the key suppliers of food, fuel and other goods across northern Mali.
According to Oxfam, the markets are rapidly running out of stocks of food and fuel – and much of what food was available has been looted.
Many Arab and Tuareg refugees in neighbouring countries have told the agency they fear that they would become subject of reprisal attacks if they went back home.
“If traders do not come back soon and flows of food into northern Mali remain as limited as they are now, then it is likely that markets will not be properly stocked and prices will stay high – making it very difficult for people to get enough food to feed their families,” said Philippe Conraud, Oxfam country director in Mali.
“These traders are critical for local economies – and these economies have already been enormously weakened by almost a year of crisis.
“This phase of the war may almost be over, but the battle to build peace and stability has only just begun. If people feel that their lives are at risk and that their families are not safe they will not return to Mali. It’s as simple as that,” Conraud explained.
Food is already getting scarce in many markets in parts of the Gao region, where communities have been facing shortages since last year’s drought.
According to recent assessments by Oxfam, food prices have risen by nearly 20 percent since the foreign military intervention in Mali in January.
Conventional trade routes between northern Mali and the south, Niger and Algeria are severely restricted at the moment.
Oxfam has called on both Malian and international forces to ensure the security and safety of all Malian people so that communities can put their lives back together and let the process of peace and reconciliation begin.