GENEVA, Switzerland, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- Fierce fighting in northern Mali is compounded by a mounting food crisis in the region, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
Fighting in Mali attributed to Tuareg rebels erupted in January when they returned from fighting alongside forces loyal to former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The simmering conflict, after years of peace, rekindled ethnic tensions between northern and southern Malians.
The ICRC said initially an estimated 30,000 people were displaced. At least twice that many left their homes because of recent fighting.
"In Mali and Niger, we face a double situation with renewed insurgencies and fighting in northern Mali where thousands of people have had to flee and a food crisis affecting the whole Sahel belt where people lack food, have lost their crops and cattle has no fodder to survive on," Boris Michel, the ICRC's head of operations for northern and western Africa, said in a statement.
The ICRC warned that the proliferation of weapons in the region was creating a "climate of fear." It issued an appeal for $13.4 million in contributions to help avert what Michel said would be a "major humanitarian crisis."