Mali sees further displacement as fighting continues, refugees report growing food shortages

Briefing Notes, 22 January 2013

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.

UNHCR Mali media team:

  • Spokesperson: (Bamako) Helene Caux +221 77 333 1291 caux@unhcr.org
  • Regional Representative: (Bamako/Dakar) Valentin Tapsoba +221 77 529 5014
  • Spokesperson: (Bamako as of Wednesday) William Spindler +33 623 316 11 78
  • In Burkina Faso: Hugo Reichenberger on mobile + 226 66 61 94 94
  • In Niger: Charlotte Arnaud on mobile + 227 92 19 19 03
  • In Mauritania: Nada Merheb on mobile + 222 33 49 26 26
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20
  • Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483
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UNHCR Mauritania Fact Sheet

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Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

In May 2013, the Nigerian government, responding to a surge in violence in the north-east of the country, declared a state of emergency in the volatile states of Borno, Adawama and Yobe. Many people fled to neighbouring Niger's Diffa region and to the Far North Region of Cameroon. Fresh violence in January this year has forced thousands more to flee to both countries. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux visited the towns of Bosso and Diffa in Niger's Diffa region shortly before the latest influx. She met some of the Nigerian refugees who had fled earlier waves of violence across the border. They told her of the violence they had seen, the losses they had suffered and their attempts to lead as normal a life as possible in Diffa, including sending their children to attend school. They are grateful to the communities that have welcomed and helped them in Niger.

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

The Most Important Thing – Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso

"The Most Important Thing" documents - in words and pictures - some of the tough decisions people face when they have to flee their home. With support from UNHCR, American photographer Brian Sokol began the project in South Sudan, taking portraits of Sudanese refugees carrying the most valuable possession they brought with them into exile. He also asked them to explain their decision. Sokol continued with Syrian refugees in Iraq and in this photo essay looks at Malians in refugee camps in neighbouring Burkina Faso. While the photographs may reveal a fair amount about the subjects, it is their words - their stories - that share far more.

For the Sudanese, the most important things were primarily objects to keep them alive during their long, difficult journey: a pot, an axe, a water jug or a basket. For Syrians, the objects were largely sentimental: an old ring, a torn photograph, the key to a door that may no longer exist. Among the Malians depicted in this photo gallery, the objects largely had to do with their cultural identity. They spoke of how the items helped them to still feel part of their people, despite being forced into exile.

The Most Important Thing – Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso

Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

The process of relocating refugees from one site to a safer one is full of challenges. In Burkina Faso, the UN refugee agency has been working with partner organizations and the government to move thousands of Malian refugee families away from border sites like Damba to a safer camp some 100 kilometres to the south. Working under hot and harsh conditions, the aid workers had to dismantle shelters and help people load their belongings onto trucks for the journey. The new site at Mentao is also much easier to access with emergency assistance, including shelter, food, health care and education. These images, taken by photographer Brian Sokol, follow the journey made by Agade Ag Mohammed, a 71-year-old nomad, and his family from Damba to Mentao in March. They fled their home in Gao province last year to escape the violence in Mali, including a massacre that left two of his sons, a brother and five nephews dead. As of mid-April 2013 there were more than 173,000 Malian refugees in neighbouring countries. Within the arid West African nation there are an estimated 260,000 internally displaced people.

Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

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