Emergency food supplies donated by Estonia arrived in Mali

Regular EDF personnel in Mali, based in the eastern city of Gao.
Regular EDF personnel in Mali, based in the eastern city of Gao. Source: Taavi Karotamm/mil.ee

Emergency dry food supplies sent from Estonia enables the European Union´s training mission in the West African nation of Mali to continue working smoothly, even if another wave of the coronavirus occurs.

Mali´s capital city, Bamako, is situated in a green area of the country, where 90 percent of the 18 million-strong populace live. 1,051 coronavirus infections have been identified, and 63 people have died. However, this may not be quite the case across this volatile country, ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

Uncertainty must be taken into account in the EU training mission in which Estonia also participates. The Ministry of Defense and the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) thus decided to send food parcels to Mali.

"It gives them a chance to stay in the mission, isolated from the outside effects. Secondly, if we have these supplies, and plenty of them, then we are not competing with Mali´s food supplies," Maj. Ivo Reimann, Commander of the Estonian contingent in Mali explained.

The Estonian consignment contained 1,920 food packages, domestic food largely, and all for €45,000.

"In autumn for example, let´s say that there will be another wave; the bases will be closed and they can only use dry food - these classil ration packs. They asked for large quantities. Estonia can help, and we decided to send it to Mali. The EU´s military leadership has appreciated us for that," Minister of Defense, Jüri Luik (Isamaa) said.

During the seven years of activities, European instructors have trained about 15,000 locals, which makes 1,000 per half year. Nowadays, the learning activities are stagnant, with half of the activities canceled.

"At the moment we are avoiding this in case the instructors and trainees get infected with the virus. However, we are continuing with some activities, with those counseling activities and other projects that don´t require close contact among a large group," Maj. Reimann said.

Paradoxically, it seems that in countries with poorer living standards, the virus has not been as damaging as in Western developing countries. In many crisis areas, the spread of the virus is not particularly measured, and people must be prepared for anything. This has been stated in discussions between NATO and EU defense ministers. However, all military action has decreased slightly. In Afghanistan where there are also large coronavirus outbreaks, various opposing forces have not yet taken advantage of the virus. Thus, stopping training is one of the most important effects of the virus on military missions to date.

"Because we can´t train the local armies, their level of combat decreases, and in the future, this could make them pay - but this is not a short-term perspective," Luik said.

Estonia will continue to operate with 50 infantry members in a French-led counter-insurgency Operation Barkhane, headquartered in the desert region, in the city of Gao, 1,000 kilometers from the capital.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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