Don’t forget Mali’s refugees, aid groups urge

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Don't forget Mali's refugees, aid groups urgeNouakchott (AFP) – Mali’s conflict and the ensuing flood of refugees must not be forgotten amid the multiplication of global crises, the UN’s refugee agency and the World Food Programme insisted Tuesday.

In a joint statement, the two aid bodies said that funds are “urgently needed to continue providing vital assistance to Malian refugees”.

A 2012 coup in Mali toppled what had been heralded as one of west Africa’s most stable democracies, and precipitated a crisis in which Al-Qaeda-linked groups seized control of the country’s north, enforcing a brutal form of Islamic law until a French-led military intervention forced them out.

“We are urgently calling on donors to help us continue to feed and provide shelter to these refugees, in addition to allowing their children to keep going to school in our camps and providing them with access to basic health services,” explained UNHCR regional coordinator for the Mali crisis Valentin Tapsoba.

“The Malian refugees are being forgotten as humanitarian crises unfold elsewhere in the world,” the statement, sent to AFP in Mauritania, added.

“Our collective efforts have saved the lives of many refugee children. However, without regular assistance, malnutrition can quickly wreak havoc on these extremely vulnerable families and can seriously compromise a child’s physical and mental development,” said Denise Brown, WFP Regional Director for West Africa.

Food rations were distributed regularly to the 33,800 Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, 68,000 refugees in Mauritania and 50,000 refugees in Niger throughout 2013.

UNHCR and WFP said they needed $130 million and $36 million respectively to assist Malian refugees and internally displaced people in Mali this year.

To date, UNHCR has only received only $9.2 million for 2014, while WFP has received $4 million.

Last year the UN refugee agency received $101 million, or 70 percent of its funding requirements, while WFP received $26 million, or 46 percent of its funding requirements.

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