Thousands displaced in Mali's far-north need help: Red Cross

Thousands of displaced Malians who have fled to the far north of the country near the Algerian border are in great distress, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned Friday.

"The ordeal of many people displaced by the conflict in Mali is far from over," the ICRC said in a statement, highlighting the plight of more than 6,500 displaced people and the 400 local families in Tinzawatene, in the Kidal region in the far north.

"Those who have fled to Tinzawatene had to leave all their belongings behind," Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC regional delegation for Mali and Niger, said in the statement.

"They have nothing. They are taking shelter under trees, in deserted houses and even in the shells of abandoned vehicles. More worryingly still, they do not have enough to eat," he said, stressing that "pregnant women, children and the elderly are most at risk."

The organisation said that despite the successes of the French offensive that began last month to help fight back Islamist groups that occupied northern Mali for 10 months, many of the tens of thousands of people displaced by the conflict are opting to wait a bit longer before returning home.

This was especially true in Tinzawatene, the ICRC said, noting that displaced people there had come from Kidal, Gao and even from as far afield as Menaka, some 600 kilometres away.

Attaher Maiga, the head of the ICRC sub-division in Gao, said that in the arid region, people were especially in dire need of water.

The ICRC said it was cooperating with the Mali Red Cross to send aid, including food distribution, and that it planned to help improve the water supply.