Tens of Thousands in Need
More than 450,000 people have fled their homes in Mali since fighting erupted in the north in January 2012 between a Tuareg rebel movement and Malian government forces. Families have found refuge in the neighbouring countries of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. Some have also fled to Guinea and Togo. Many have also been displaced within Mali.
The refugees and internally displaced are predominantly ethnic Tuareg, but other affected groups include the Peul, Bambara, Djerma and Haussa people. Many of the refugees are pastoralists who have taken their cattle with them.
They are living in harsh conditions in the host countries, which themselves have limited resources. The Sahel region countries have been facing a severe drought and food crisis for several months. The role of UNHCR and other agencies is crucial and their help will alleviate the burden on the host communities.
UNHCR has deployed emergency teams to Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger and has undertaken rapid needs assessments of the displaced populations. Refugees are being registered and moved to sites away from the dangerous border areas. Life-saving assistance is being provided at these sites, including shelter, food, water and health care. The refugee agency has airlifted thousands of family tents to all three countries as well as tonnes of non-food items.
In Mali, the situation remains very unstable with rebels having been ousted from their last stronghold site, Angoso, on July 11, 2012. The entire northern region is now controlled by Islamists. On top of the estimated 265,000 Malian refugees in other countries, more than 185,800 people had been displaced within Mali as of mid-August. They are living in spontaneous settlements or with host communities. The general insecurity has limited access to affected populations in the north.
In light of the recent developments and the continuous influx of Malian refugees into neighbouring countries, UNHCR, in consultation with its partners, revised its operation plans in order to protect and respond to the needs of up to 440,000 forcibly displaced people. However, the number of forcibly displaced people is currently estimated at about 450,700.
UNHCR needs urgent financial support towards its revised appeal, which amounts to US$153.7 million for 2012, so that the refugee agency can provide immediate protection and assistance to the Malian refugees in coordination with its partners and other UN agencies. To date only about 35.3 per cent of the funding has been received. Time is crucial, given the food crisis in the Sahel region, the rainy season, the threat of cholera and the instability in Mali.