Sweden tackles peacekeeper food problems in Mali

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Swedish soldier in Mali
Image caption,
There are 250 Swedish peacekeepers based in Timbuktu in northern Mali

Sweden has moved to improve the provision of food for its peacekeepers who are part of the UN mission in Mali, their spokesman has told the BBC.

A new kitchen for the unit had solved the problem, he said, following reports the soldiers were going hungry.

One Swedish soldier told Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper that he had lost at least 5kg (11lbs) in Mali.

The UN mission was deployed to northern Mali following a French-led operation to drive out Islamist fighters in 2013.

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The BBC's Alex Duval Smith in the capital, Bamako, says about 250 Swedish soldiers are part of the 10,000-strong UN peace force.

Food problems have been reported before with Chadian troops once downing tools in protest at going months on UN rations with no fresh food, she says.

According to Dagens Nyheter, the Swedish soldiers became so thin that their ribcages became visible.

Lt Col Svensson told the BBC's Newsday programme that the Swedes now had their own kitchen, although he conceded "every one of us would wish for more greens, more fruit".

But he said it was important for soldiers not to go out and "over shop" in Timbuktu in case they deprived the city's civilians of fresh ingredients.

Our reporter says there is a discrepancy in conditions for the troops from different countries making up the UN force.

The majority of peacekeepers are from Africa and have far lower living standards than those of the French and the Swedes, who sleep in air-conditioned tents, she says.

The UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support says all soldiers receive a 3,900-calorie daily ration.

Lt Col Svensson said whilst on patrol, ration packs can go up to 4,500 calories a day.

Correction 16 April 2015: This story has been amended to remove incorrect references to food rations being increased and that the UN food ration was 1,800 calories a day.

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