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Int'l aid agencies concerned about civilians in Mali

Xinhua | Updated: 2013-02-23 04:50

GENEVA - The situation remains highly volatile in Mali as 16,000 people have been displaced and tens of thousands have fled into neighboring countries since the beginning of 2013, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said Friday.

OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said there was deep concern about the plight of more than 1.2 million people in northern Mali who have been affected by armed operations and where humanitarian access is limited.

Protection of civilians is an urgent humanitarian priority not least in terms of the risk of explosive remnants of war and mines, Laerke said.

Marixie Mercado, spokesperson at the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Friday that the crisis in Mali had disrupted the education of some 700,000 Malian children, leaving 200,000 with no access to school in the country.

Since January 2012, at least 115 schools in northern Mali have been closed, destroyed, looted and in places contaminated with unexploded ordnance. Only one in three schools is functioning.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned if the current situation in Mali lasted, it would create humanitarian problems.

"What worries me is that the kind of asymmetric conflict we now see sets in with a precarious security situation and people that don't have access to basic needs," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of ICRC regional delegation for Mali and Niger.

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