Fear, conflict and starvation in Mali

The Today programme's Mike Thomson has been reporting on the plight of the people of Mali in West Africa.

First came the drought which left a quarter of its people hungry. Then, in April, the entire north of the country was overrun by Islamist extremists.

With pressure building for military action to retake the north, and food supplies at rock bottom, most people simply have their eyes on survival.

Image caption Leaves are all there is to eat in Bandiagara, two hours drive from Mopti in northern Mali

Audio: 'All I can do is pick leaves to feed my family'

Mike has had very rare access to the Mali army, which is attempting to regain control from extremists.

Image caption Mali Army soldier, taken north of Mopti

Audio: The army's fight against extremism

The Kone family were forced to flee their home in Gao to escape both malnutrition and the Islamist extremists problems.

Image caption Refugee family from northern town of Gao, Bandiagara

Audio: Family forced to flee extremist-held north

The Sacko/Kouyate family are all musicians and have played with Bono from U2 at the Festival of the Desert, an annual event which will not be taking place in Mali this year due to the insurgence.

Image caption Musical family: Sons Moustapha Kouyate and Madou Kouyate, mum Amy Sacko and father Bassekou Kouyate.

Audio: Festival of the Desert 'loss to whole world'