A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
As Mali endeavors to re-establish peace and territorial integrity in the North, Malians are still struggling to pick up their lives after a devastating drought, a conflict, and massive displacement.
Oxfam is there
Since January 2012, over 260,000 people have been displaced because of the conflict in Mali. More than 170,000 Malian refugees have sought safety in neighboring countries Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
In recent months, Oxfam in Mali has provided 78,800 people in Bourem and Amderaboukane in the Gao region in the North with food, and water and sanitation needs.
Oxfam has assisted over 150,000 Malian refugees and host communities in neighboring Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger with food, water and sanitation provisions, health and hygiene promotion, hygiene kits, and the construction of classrooms.
Recently we traveled to the regions of Mopti and Ségou in Central Mali to assess the most urgent needs of affected communities, and came to the following conclusions:
- Thousands of people that fled the North are not returning home yet, as they wait for the school semester to end, lack the means to return, or still fear insecurity in the North. While they remain displaced, the challenges they face include finding and paying for appropriate shelter, paying for food, and the lack of healthcare available.
- Host communities are also very vulnerable: they were affected by last year’s food crisis, and this year’s rice harvest has been jeopardized because of the conflict. Vegetable gardens and seedbeds have also been lost, while markets remain poorly supplied. In the mean time, many families help the displaced communities by sharing their scarce resources.
- Host and displaced communities continue to share the few functioning water points, while inappropriate hygiene practices put both communities at risk. The regions lack adequate sanitation provisions like proper latrines, making the area particularly prone to cholera epidemics.
- Diabaly, a town north of Ségou, is known as Mali’s breadbasket because of its large-scale rice production. This year’s compromised harvest will affect the whole country, emphasizing the need for the local population to be supported.
- A large part of both displaced and local populations are traumatized by the conflict, posing an additional challenge for people to rebuild their lives.
“Displaced communities need support, but everybody’s coping mechanisms have been weakened by last year’s food crisis and the effects of the conflict. Both displaced and host communities have become so vulnerable that they can hardly manage,” says Philippe Conraud, Oxfam’s Country Director in Mali.
“We are trying to assist the worst affected families while taking into account the different factors that will empower them to recover from this crisis.”
We will continue to assist both displaced and host communities
Once funding is secured, Oxfam will assist the most vulnerable of both displaced and host communities in the Niono and Diabaly areas, which so far have received only limited humanitarian aid. This will include livelihood reconstruction, food, water provision, hygiene promotion, latrine construction, the distribution of hygiene kits that include soap and water containers, and gender-based violence (GBV) sensitization.
How to help
Oxfam is calling for funds to provide urgently needed assistance to the most vulnerable conflict-affected communities in Mali. Please donate to the Malian Refugee Crisis Fund today.
Dated 28 February 2013.
Photos: Mali refugee crisis hits Sahel