22 January 2013

Mali Sees Further Displacement As Fighting Continues, Refugees Report Growing Food Shortages

Photo: WFP/Justin Smith
A group of children wait on the fringes of the distribution center. (file photo)

press release

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 22 January 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

As air bombing and fighting continue in Mali, refugees are continuing to cross into neighbouring countries.

In Mauritania, 4208 Malian refugees have arrived since January 11. After being registered at the Fassala transit centre, they are being transported further inland to the Mbera refugee camp which is already hosting 55,221 people from earlier displacements.

In Niger there are now 1,300 new refugees, mainly from Menaka and Anderamboukane.

During the same period, Burkina Faso has received 1,829 new refugees. These are mainly Tuaregs and Songhai from the regions of Gossi, Timbuktu, Gao and Bambara Maoude. To help receive people we have erected two hangars in Inabao, at the border with Mali, which is currently the main entry point for new refugees. Our partner Plan Burkina has also rehabilitated a hand water pump and has constructed emergency latrines. In part, this is aimed too at easing any possible tensions with the local population.

New arrivals continue to tell us they left their homes because of air strikes and fighting, as well as fears over the application of Sharia law. They also speak of increasing shortages of food and fuel, with traditional markets unable to operate. A lack of cereal is pushing breeders to either kill some of their animals as they have nothing else to eat, or to try to sell them. Some refugees are travelling by private car or by truck, while others have arrived from Mali on foot or by donkey. Many newly arrived refugees are expecting additional members of their families to join them in the next days from Mali.

UNHCR and partners continue to assist those refugees who are in camps in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania by providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene structures, food, adequate shelter, healthcare and education.

In Burkina Faso, vehicles are going back and forth at the border to collect those who are unable to walk. We are also continuing to relocate refugees from the border to safer sites inland. On January 19th, a convoy with 568 refugees left the Ferrerio and Gandafabou refugee sites, in Burkina's northern Sahel region to be relocated to Goudebou camp near Dori. Ferrerio will from now only be used as a transit center for the new arrivals before they are transported to Goudebou. As of today, and since October, we have relocated 4,737 refugees from the border. In total, Burkina Faso is hosting 38,776 Malian refugees.

Including those displaced this month, some 147,000 Malians have found refuge in neighbouring countries since the Mali crisis started in January 2012. Inside Mali, 229,000 people are displaced - mainly from Kidal, Timbuktu, and Gao.

For the internally displaced as well as for refugees, the immediate needs are for water, food, shelter and medical care. Living conditions are particularly precarious for the internally displaced who are in dire need of food, but also need help with education, health, lodging as well as schooling for young children. UNHCR and our partners are working to address the situation through income-generating activities in Bamako. Currently, humanitarian access to other areas of Mali is severely restricted by the security situation.

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