Mali remains in dire need of humanitarian assistance, John Ging, director of operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told Al Jazeera in New York.

Ging, who has just returned from the West African country, said the Malian people are in need of food assistance and medical supplies, but everyone the UN spoke to emphasised the need for educational support.

Approximately "200,000 children are not getting any education and haven't for the last year", he told Al Jazeera's James Bays.

Ging's comments came as Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's defence minister, said French troops were involved in heavy fighting in the mountains in the north of the country.

Le Drian said said it was too early to consider withdrawing soldiers, despite the growing cost of the mission.

France sent thousands of troops to Mali last month, to help the government push out armed groups who had taken control of the north.

Source: Al Jazeera