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Malian woman refugee Bintou Walet Mohamed Ali

Malian woman refugee Bintou Walet Mohamed Ali who is living in the Mentao camp in Burkina Faso is part of the increasing number of refugees who have fled the northern conflict zone in Mali. Today humanitarian efforts to stop food insecurity is also a a pressing issue inside and outside the northern region. Image: Yaye Fatou Marone/Oxfam

(WNN) Bamako, MALI, AFRICA: As the region surrounding the northern borders of Mali suffer continued destabilization, the United Nations Security Council is calling for “swift action” with an integrated approach that will promote peace to stop the continuing deterioration in the region.

According to the UN, over 203,845 people have been displaced in the region after ongoing drought has hit Mali and surrounding regions. Roaming armies of insurgents, Islamic extremists connected to al Qaeda, and Rebel forces have also caused women, children and families to leave northern Mali as they have been placed in increasing danger of being caught in-between the conflict that has caused further destabilization to Africa’s Sahel region.

“Fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in the country’s north in January. Since then, radical Islamists have seized control of the north, where they have imposed an extremist version of Muslim Sharia law, as well as restrictions that target women in particular,” outlined a December 10 release by the UN News Centre.

In the wake of the March 2012 military coup d’état that has forced women to endure increasing denials of their human rights under a more restrictive and extreme form of Islam, women began in April of last year to publicly protest the rising restrictions on their freedom in the region.

After journeying into northern Mali last October to asses the impact of destabilization on those who live in the northern region of Mali, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonovic said that the “most disturbing” reports outlined that extreme Islamist groups were beginning to set up a system of sanction against women who were not married, but do have children.

“This could indicate that these women are at imminent risk of being subjected to cruel and inhuman[e] punishment,” said Mr. Šimonovic in an October 2012 statement released by the UN.

The numbers of refugees who have crossed the border of Mali and entered into other countries are now estimated to be somewhere between 140,000 to 175,000. Official numbers may be higher as some people have not been counted and may have slipped through the cracks.

Deteriorating conditions of food security for refugees is also a concerning issue for some members of the UN Security Council as neighboring countries bordering Mali struggle under conditions that have caused their own food resources to dwindle. A comprehensive and strategic plan is needed to bring peace to the region, said the 15-nation members of the UN Security Council on Monday.

The West African regional bloc joined Monday’s UN Security Council as 16 member ECOWAS – Economic Community Of West African States with Ivory Coast Foreign Minister Charles Koffi Diby was an active part of the high level meeting. Urging the Council to send in an “African-led force” of 3,300 troops Koffi Diby outlined that swift action was needed.

“The Sahel is suffering not only a humanitarian crisis of food safety but the fallout from events in Mali, which put a risk the region’ security,” said High Representative Catherine Ashton for the European Union following her meeting with the UN’s Special Envoy for the Sahel region on December 4.

It is “essential that the international community helps the people of Mali find a lasting solution to the crisis facing their country. This will require a coherent and comprehensive approach, linking the promotion of governance, security and development at local, national and regional levels,” continued Ashton.

Extreme poverty and food shortages are an essential part of the work to bring peace to the region, said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva on December 7 at the FAO headquarters in Rome during a meeting with UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on the Sahel.

EU foreign ministers have also approved up to 250 military members to enter the region for what they have conveyed is to ‘train and strengthen’ Malian government troops to be better able to provide safety and stability in the region.

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