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US Donates $10 Million for Refugee Relief in Mali

People originally from Mali's north protest in the rain against the Islamist takeover of northern Mali, in the capital, Bamako, Mali, July 4, 2012.
The White House announced Thursday it is releasing up to $10 million to go toward emergency relief for displaced refugees in, and migrants from Mali.

According to Remi Dourlot, a spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the money is needed to help relieve some of the suffering of more than 230,000 people who have fled violence in Mali, as well as the more than 155,000 internally displaced (IDP) who fled fighting in the north, but who remain in the country.

“It’s not clear to me whether this money will go to the refugees or to the IDPs. In any case, it’s certainly a good use [of the funds],” he said.

Refugees have been fleeing northern Mali since March when Taureg separatists, known as the Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), gained control of the territory and declared independence. But, four groups of Islamists have taken over most of the region captured by the MNLA, and are imposing Sharia Law in cities such as Gao and Timbuktu.

OCHA has appealed for more than $240 million for people affected by the violence within Mali. It has raised less than 42 percent of its goal. An additional appeal from the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) seeks another $150 million to help refugees who have fled to neighboring countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

“At this stage, only about 23 percent of this [request] has been funded,” Dourlot added.

According to a White House statement, the $10 million in “emergency funds” released goes toward UNHCR to help those fleeing northern Mali.

“When they [refugees] arrive to other countries, most of them are completely destitute,” Dourlot added.

Of the four Islamist groups who have reportedly taken control of northern Mali, three are believed to have links to the al-Qaida terror network.

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