Mali conflict triggers refugee movement never seen in Sahel
While political and military actors have so far failed to end growing instability, a new report says millions of people across the Sahel region continue to face “extreme risk of hunger and malnutrition,” with recent political instability in the region worsening the situation.
According to the relief agency, Plan International, hundreds of thousands of Malian refugees have fled to Burkina Faso and Niger, warning that though some communities have been resilient, “the current crisis is threatening to undermine any such gains and once again lives are at stake.”
The insurgency in northern Mali with the capture of the north by several rebel groups has further complicated the humanitarian situation in the drought stricken region of West and Central Africa.
“The unrest in Mali has triggered a refugee movement never seen before on such a scale in the Sahel region. Almost 200,000 refugees have sought shelter in neighbouring countries and our staff in Niger and Burkina Faso are seeing families and their cattle streaming into already impoverished communities on a daily basis,” said Berenger Berehoudougou, the Disaster Risk Manager for Plan West Africa.
Plan International is said to be responding to the refugee crisis by meeting fundamental human needs such as food, water, shelter and essential non-food items like blankets and bed nets, as well as working to support access to health care, protection and livelihoods.
Concerns have been expressed about the health of the refugees, especially young children.
“Clean water is a major challenge in this area and food, although still available in most markets, is simply too expensive for people to be able to eat properly or nutritiously,” the Disaster Risk Manager for Plan West Africa said.
However, Plan said it “has has been working to develop programmes to raise the levels of food security and independence for families at risk of failed harvests due to poor rainfall.”