Nearly 72,000 people displaced by fighting in northern Mali between the army and Tuareg rebels are living in rough conditions and need help, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday.

The organization and the Malian Red Cross started distributing food and essential supplies on Friday to more than 28,000 people displaced in the northern Gao region. The United Nations humanitarian office said Thursday that the fighting had forced 195,000 people to flee their homes. The refugees have headed mostly to Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria. Tuareg rebels are waging their biggest offensive since a 2009 rebellion.

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