The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has called a temporary halt to its activities in the north of Mali, where it has been working for the past 35 years.
The decision to suspend operations came after the progression made by armed rebels in the region and the ensuing lack of security the SDC announced on Thursday.
Humanitarian programmes run by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and supported by the Swiss government agency are among the suspended activities.
WFP depots in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu - towns all seized by the Tuareg rebels – have been looted and the UN personnel was evacuated towards the south, which is still in government hands.
“Thousands of people no longer have access to supplies or basic services,” said Hansjuerg Ambühl, head of the SDC’s west African division. UN agencies and the ICRC will now have to negotiate access with the rebels.
SDC development projects that have been suspended include education, health, town and country planning, agriculture, water as well as food security programmes. Some of these projects are run in collaboration with Swiss non-governmental organization Helvetas.
Mali is one of 17 priority countries for Swiss development aid. The government currently allocates SFr15 million ($16.3 million) per year for projects there.
swissinfo.ch and agencies