“The people of Mali have suffered appallingly. Now is the time for us to help,” John Ging, Director of Operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told correspondents in New York.The latest humanitarian appeal for Mali seeks $373 million, including $153 million for the most urgent interventions in the next six months. However, only $17 million has been received so far, Mr. Ging said.He stressed that security and humanitarian access had improved, which should erase doubts that aid would be effective at this point, including the necessary development aid that could restore people’s ability to support themselves. “We are there, faced very directly with the immediate needs, with the urgency,” he said, adding, “Not only is the need there, but also the very real opportunity to turn things around.”Northern Mali was occupied by radical Islamists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.Mr. Ging said that since the conflict began in January 2012, more than 430,000 people have been displaced – more than 260,000 internally and more than 170,000 having fled as refugees to neighbouring countries.In addition to disrupting the lives of those who fled, this has left health clinics short of doctors, schools without teachers and electricity plants without engineers, he said.During his four-day visit, during which he visited the historic city of Timbuktu and the central town of Mopti in the north, Mr. Ging said community representatives emphasized to him that they did not want to become dependent on international aid but were seeking basic support.“These are dignified people who are not asking for much,” said Mr. Ging, specifying that, in the North, people wanted security, schooling for their children, health services, reopened markets and to be able to sow their crops on time.Conveying his impression that much of the population was traumatized by events of the past year, as well as reports of rape and brutalities against children, he said that education seemed to be a huge priority for most people. “This is the issue that energized and caused the most animation in everybody we met,” he said, pointing out that 700,000 children were affected by the crisis and that 200,000 had not had any schooling in the past year.Describing his visits to two hospitals, he confirmed shortages of supplies and services. He also said that restoration of livelihoods was a priority as Mali suffered from the long-term food and nutritional crisis that was afflicting much of the Sahel region of Africa, with 585,000 people in need of immediate food assistance and a million more at risk. He said that most people were preoccupied with restoring their ability to feed themselves and that development assistance was critical for that purpose. “Their preoccupation must become our preoccupation,” he stressed. Also today, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appealed for $45 million in urgent funding to address the basic needs of women and children affected by the crisis, for the next three months, underlining the vulnerability of those two parts of the population. “There have been instances of recruitment of children by armed groups, threats from unexploded ordnance, gender-based violence and a heavy impact on the education provision for this generation of children,” the agency said in a press release. “Without funding, UNICEF will be unable to continue its support to life-saving interventions for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host families and communities, as well as refugees,” it said.
Paxman has previously raised the gender imbalance on the show himself, wondering on air during the 2015 semi-final: “Why on earth are there no women left in this stage of the competition?”This series of the quiz show saw an all male final, with just one in five female contestants through whole 2017 competition. Writing in the Financial Times, Paxman said: “As for the testicle issue, since we know that intelligence is not determined by gender, it must be a question of taste. “The teams are not chosen by the college or university authorities but by the students themselves.”The students are encouraged to enter teams which broadly reflect their institution.”A growing number of applicants “prefer not to be gendered”. The host also tackled the question of whether the show is dumbing down to suit modern viewers. The allegation, he said, is “rubbish”. University Challenge is not sexist and is dominated by men because they simply like quizzes more, Jeremy Paxman has suggested. Paxman, the host of the BBC Two quiz, said the fact that more men that women took part in the show “must be a question of taste”. Saying students themselves choose team members to represent their university, he added: ” I suspect that — like football or darts — more males than females care about quizzing.” “The questions on University Challenge, by contrast, have deliberately been made more difficult. “And the audience has risen. No one can prove cause and effect. “But it does demonstrate that television is not forced to treat the audience as morons to persuade them to watch.” “Television producers are forever dreaming up new formats, often with cash prizes attached, to prove you don’t need to be clever to be a winner.”Their quizzes are almost always gimmicky, vulgar or stupid. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Eric Monkman, who became a household name this series Female contestants such as Emma Johnson have to endure constant online comment about their looks Jeremy Paxman, quizmaster