(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
DAKAR- Escalating militia violence and a surge in attacks on aid workers in northern Mali are restricting the delivery of food and healthcare to millions of people, agencies said on Monday.
The Malian army, United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian groups are regularly targeted by desert fighters who have regrouped since a French-led military operation in 2013 to drive them out of the West African nation's northern towns.
At least 100 peacekeepers have died in recent months, making it the most deadly UN mission to date, while the number of attacks on aid workers and their compounds has soared this year.
Aid operations have been disrupted about 70 times so far this year - with agencies hit by arrests, assaults, thefts and break-ins - surpassing a total of 68 incidents in 2016, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
"Aid workers are being targeted for cash, radios, cars and other equipment," Ute Kollies, head of OCHA in Mali, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "The insecurity is having a growing impact on aid operations ... we are worried about the deterioration."
At least 3.7 million people across Mali will need aid this year, up from 2.5 million in 2016, and more than 600,000 urgently need food, according to UN data.