Domestic and international NGOs on Thursday issued an alert on Mali, where more than 500,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes to flee the year-old armed conflict that resurged at the beginning of last week.

In just the past few days, 30,000 people have arrived in Bamako, the head of Oxfam in the Malian capital, Marietou Djaby, told Efe.

"Mali is at war and the humanitarian situation is coming close to being a catastrophe," Djaby said.

On Jan. 7, the Salafist armed groups controlling the northern part of the country since June launched an offensive against the east-central city of Kona after unilaterally breaking the cease-fire they had agreed to with the central government.

Unable to halt the attack, the Malian army asked France, the former colonial power, for help and last Friday Paris sent combat aircraft to bombard rebel positions and now has about 1,000 soldiers on the ground fighting alongside Malian government troops.

Oumou Traore, the president of a coalition of around 50 Malian NGOs that deals with women's issues, asked that more attention be paid to "the people who are suffering the ravages of the fighting, especially women and children."

"It's terrible to listen to the stories of raped women, of their sick children. Families who have lost everything," she told Efe.

According to the International Organization for Migration, of the people who have fled their homes, 228,918 are internally displaced.

Tens of thousands more have fled to neighboring Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria. EFE