On Sunday 9 February, Ms. McAskie traveled to the southern region of Sikasso, which is the main entry point for Ivorian refugees, Malian returnees, and third country nationals fleeing the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. Accompanied by the United Nations Country Team and the Haut Commissaire de Sikasso, she visited the Loulouni refugee camp, which hosts some 200 Ivorian refugees and third country nationals. The delegation later traveled to Zegoua, at the border between Mali and Côte d'Ivoire, where officials explained to her the registration mechanism as she observed people crossing into Mali.
According to the authorities, more than 35,000 people have crossed into Mali since 19 September, including some 2,000 Ivorian refugees. In addition to Loulouni and Zegoua, refugee camps have been established in the towns of Faragouaran, Kadiana, and Manankoro. The town of Zegoua, which used to be a heavy commercial transit point between Côte d'Ivoire and Mali, has come to a standstill with a high cost to local trade and transport companies.
In her audience on Monday with the President, Amadou Toumani Toure, the UN Humanitarian Envoy was informed of the heavy economic toll that the country has suffered as a result of the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire. President Toure reminded the mission that Mali used to import and export over 70 percent of its goods through its southern neighbor and now it had to explore alternative routes. "The crisis in Côte d'Ivoire comes at a great cost to Mali", the president said.
Her three-day visit also included meetings with the international donor community, whom she called on to fund humanitarian programmes, in particular the safe transport of third country nationals. In that regard, the UN Envoy welcomes the transportation provided by the Government of Mali to their nationals trapped at the border between Liberia and Guinea.
Ms. McAskie began her mission on 16 January in Abidjan, where she held extensive meetings with Government authorities and international and local humanitarian actors. She visited shantytowns and sites hosting displaced and refugee populations in Abidjan, as well as northern and central portions of the country, including Bouake in the rebel-held north and Nicla refugee camp in the west, before beginning her tour of neighboring countries. She departs this evening for stops in Paris and Geneva, where she will hold consultations with international humanitarian organisations, and donors - upon whom she will impress the importance of funding urgent humanitarian interventions related to the crisis - before returning to New York.
Bamako, 10 February 2003
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