Refugees from Mali

from Catholic Agency for Overseas Development
Published on 14 Feb 2013 View Original

“I have a small child, so when armed men started shooting, I got scared and left town,” says Halima. “My whole family did.”

Halima and her family are among more than 400,000 people who have been forced from their homes since a loose coalition of Jihadist groups took control of northern Mali last year. She fled from her village, and is now living in a camp in the west of Niger, in a hard-to-reach area that was facing food and water shortages even before the crisis began.

The recent military intervention by France, in support of the Malian government, has led to thousands more people crossing the border into Niger and other neighbouring countries, adding to pressure on food, water and grazing land for animals.

Thanks to your support, we have pledged an extra £50,000 to ensure that our local Catholic partner, CADEV-Niger, can provide food, healthcare and emergency supplies like tents, jerrycans, blankets, pots and pans to the refugees.

Halima is grateful to have received millet and vegetable oil, but she is particularly happy to have received a 40kg bag of charcoal. Living in a camp on the edge of a desert, firewood has been in short supply. “I will be able to cook for the whole family for about three weeks with this,” she says.

Beyond the camps

As well as delivering aid within the camps, we are working with CADEV-Niger to support refugees who are herding their animals in the surrounding areas.

“We have two types of Malian refugees here in Niger,” says Abdou Douramane Amadou from CADEV-Niger. “We have Malians in the camps and we have nomads with camels and goats outside the camps. The nomads are not as easily accessed and assisted because their traditions dictate that they keep moving.”

CADEV-Niger are providing aid to the nomads, and, crucially, to the local communities who are sharing food and shelter with them. They have distributed seeds and tools and improved water supplies to local villagers, so that they are able to set up vegetable gardens and grow more food.

Hope for the future

According to Abdou Douramane Amadou, the mood of the refugees has greatly improved since the French army re-established telecommunication systems within Mali.

“Comforting information is coming in by phone,” he says. “It is so important psychologically for the refugees to find out how friends and families are doing. To know what has happened to their goods and houses, especially if they feared they had been lost. We see a lot more smiles.”

CAFOD’s Michel Monginda Mondengele says: “We are praying for a lasting peace in Mali, and we are continuing to monitor the situation very closely. At the moment, most of the refugees in Niger have no idea when they will be able to return home, but we will continue to support them while they are here.”