File picture: Malian soldiers stand in guard in Kati, outside Bamako.

Brussels - The European Commission warned on Wednesday that northern Mali could face a “major humanitarian disaster” unless access is given for food and medicine.

The European Union's executive arm offered an additional 9.0

million euros ($11.8 million) in humanitarian aid to the region but lamented that “fighting and insecurity are hindering aid delivery to those most in need”.

“Unless there is rapid progress in the coming days to open the humanitarian space and allow in supplies of food and medicines to northern Mali, there will be a major humanitarian disaster which could spill over to neighbouring countries,” the commission said in a statement.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by violence within northern Mali or into neighbouring nations, mostly Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, the statement said.

“Many among the displaced were already on the edge of survival due to the Sahel food crisis,” said European Crisis Response Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

“I fear that the recent violence will exacerbate further the food emergency both in northern Mali and in neighbouring countries where refugees are flowing to areas of acute food insecurity,” she said.

“But our capacity to respond quickly to the growing needs is limited by insecurity.

“I call upon all parties involved in the fighting to respect the rights of civilians and International Humanitarian Law and to give unhindered access for humanitarian workers to those in need.” - Sapa-AFP