News / Africa

UN: 20,000 Who Fled Violence in Mali Need Help

Lisa Schlein

The United Nations refugee agency reports more than 20,000 people who have fled violence in Mali over the past three weeks are in urgent need of help. The UNHCR says it has sent emergency teams to countries surrounding Mali to help the thousands of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes.

The exodus began in mid-January. That is when fighting between rebel Tuareg groups and government forces in the Azawad region of northern Mali began. Most of the estimated 20,000 people who have fled the violence are in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

U.N. refugee spokesman Adrian Edwards told VOA his agency was caught unprepared by the renewed fighting and its destabilizing impact. 

“This is a region, which to us, has been relatively quiet for some time and our presence has been very small. So, what we are doing now is rapidly beefing up and pinning down details as we go," said Edwards. "We still are in a situation, I think, of assessing needs and numbers and we have missions on the way to some of these areas to do that. The numbers, as I mentioned, are still reported estimates, and we do not have a system yet in place, the classic situation that you describe of red camps, of registered arrivals. It is not that orderly.”  

For example, Edwards noted many of the new arrivals in Niger, who are from the city of Menaka in Mali, are settled very close to the volatile border. He said many are sleeping in the open and have little access to shelter, clean water, health services, and food.

Fighting between the Tuareg liberation movement and governmental forces resumed on January 17 in Mali, breaking a 2009 agreement that had officially ended the Tuareg rebellion.

The Tuareg are a nomadic tribe in North and West Africa. They have launched several revolts in Mali and Niger. The late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi engaged many of the Tuareg ex-rebels as mercenaries. Many have been returning home since the civil war in Libya ended.  

UNHCR spokesman Edwards said he has heard, but cannot confirm, reports that Tuareg rebels returning from Libya are behind the current fighting in Mali.

“The political context behind this is perhaps for others to comment on, but clearly we are dealing with a situation post-Libya crisis. You saw the fighting re-erupted on January 17 - I think is seen as the starting point for this," he said. "It has, however, been a region - historically - of a number of rebellions and clashes. It certainly is a tragedy that we are seeing that again.”  

Edwards said the UNHCR is responding as quickly as it can to the new emergency. He said four additional staff members are in Niger and more are on their way. He said the UNHCR plans to send relief items for 10,000 people in Niger from its stockpiles in the region.

He also said some 3,000 Malian refugees are in Burkina Faso, and an estimated 9,000 have newly arrived in Mauritania.




You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs