Mali is a landlocked country located in western Africa and is one of the major cotton producers on the continent. Though self-sufficient when it comes to food production, Mali depends on aid from other nations and is currently facing a refugee crisis. Ahead are 10 facts about Malian refugees.
- The Mali refugee crisis began with a coup in 2012. Violence erupted between the Malian government and several Islamist groups in 2012 due to ideological differences. The rebels were eventually halted by French intervention, but despite France’s efforts, many still fled northern Mali.
- More than 100,000 people have left Mali as refugees. As of September 2016, neighboring countries Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger are collectively home to more than 134,000 Malian refugees.
- Not all refugees left the country. According to the U.N. refugee agency, 36,690 people have been internally displaced within Mali.
- Niger currently hosts the majority of Malian refugees. Niger hosts more than 60,000 Malian refugees, up from just under 53,000 one year ago. Mauritania hosts nearly 42,000 and Burkina Faso is home to approximately 32,000.
- The major issues affecting refugees and internally displaced people are access to food, healthcare and clean water. These issues are combated by humanitarian efforts, but attacks on humanitarian convoys and theft of resources have left many Malian refugees without basic necessities.
- Malnutrition is a severe concern for Malian children in refugee camps. Doctors Without Borders reported in 2013 that the number of refugee children admitted to clinics for malnutrition in the Mbera refugee camp was on the rise. The organization was concerned that lack of adequate preparation for the volume of refugees was responsible for weakening refugee health.
- Malian refugees have lost pieces of their culture to the war. Many Malian refugees are of Tuareg ethnicity. The Tuareg have a longstanding history in northern Mali, where libraries contain volumes dedicated to medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy written over centuries. Conflict between the Tuareg rebels and the Malian government has destroyed many of these cultural documents.
- The Algiers Accord has brought some stability to Mali. The 2015 peace treaty between Tuareg-led rebels and the Malian government has improved security within the country. Although the signing of this peace treaty has not reduced the number of individuals fleeing the country, the government is hopeful that the peace treaty will be a step in the right direction to better protect the people of Mali.
- Organizations such as UNICEF are currently aiding refugees. In 2013, UNICEF and its partners provided substantial aid to Malian refugees including education for 400,000 children, safe water for 1.5 million people, treatment for 170,000 children with malnutrition and rehabilitation for ex-child soldiers and victims of gender-based violence.
- Malian refugees are cautious about returning home. For those who have returned to Mali, jobs, food, water, healthcare and personal security are still very unstable. Until these issues are addressed, many Malians will continue to live as refugees in other nations.
Although the turmoil in Mali has resulted in thousands of people fleeing the country, small steps are being initiated to reduce the number of refugees and internally displaced people. Humanitarian organizations are making slow but steady progress to better the lives of Malian refugees.
– Shannon Warren