April 14 - An aid convoy heads to rebel-held areas of Gao and Timbuktu, as a humanitarian crisis looms over northern Mali. Michaela Cabrera reports.
A humanitarian crisis is looming in Mali. In Bamako, Malians were loading boxes of food and medicine that will be brought to the northern cities Gao and Timbuktu, now controlled by Tuareg rebels who are occupying more than half of the country. The European Commission had warned that northern Mali could face a major humanitarian disaster. Aid agencies say about 100,000 displaced people are in urgent need of assistance, including shelter. Some northern towns are trapped without food, water, electricity and medical care. It hasn't helped that many aid organizations have cut down their operations after being ransacked by armed groups last month. The aid convoy was guaranteed safety after members of civil society negotiated with the rebels. (SOUNDBITE) (French) MAHAMAD ELHADJ TOURE, CHIEF OF THE HUMANITARIAN CONVOY FOR GAO, SAYING: "Our actions are essentially humanitarian actions, we don't have any partisan positions. When we leave today we hope that with the help of the civil society and the cooperation of those who are now in power in this part of the country, that we can share these goods with the north." These traditional hunters, known as dozos, are proclaiming that Mali is united and indivisible. Hundreds of them gathered in Bamako to protest the occupation in the north. They performed rites that symbolised scaring off the enemy, and called for freedom in the occupied region. An interim president has promised to hold elections and fight the rebels. Meanwhile, the West African regional group ECOWAS is preparing an intervention force of 3,000 troops to enter Mali and prevent further advances of rebel troops. Michaela Cabrera, Reuters.