UNITED NATIONS—A top U.N. humanitarian official says that as security improves in Mali, the world must seize the moment to deliver much-needed humanitarian aid.

John Ging, a senior humanitarian affairs official who just visited Mali, said Tuesday that country's northern region is stabilizing after a period of brutal violence and economic collapse. But he says the north needs help re-opening schools, markets and health clinics. The U.N. is appealing for $373 million in aid, but has only received $17 million.

Even before fighting erupted last year between government forces, Taureg rebels and radical Islamists, Ging said Mali was suffering from the severe food crisis that has hit Africa's arid Sahel region.

Ging said more than 430,000 people were displaced before French and Malian troops regained much of the north last month.