Aid agencies are struggling to cope with Mali refugees

 

Aid agencies are struggling to cope with the scale of the humanitarian crisis in West Africa caused by thousands of Malians fleeing conflict, according to a study out this week.

Oxfam will publish a report on Tuesday detailing the failure of aid organisations to deal adequately with the fallout from the escalating conflict in the region. The charity says that basic needs, such as nutrition, protection and education are not being met.

In the four days following the start of the French assault on January 10th, at least 10,000 Malians have abandoned their homes, joining the 375,000 people who have already been displaced by the unrest. The UN refugee agency predicts that another 710,000 people will be forced to flee because of the conflict.

The civilian death toll from the conflict is still unknown - largely because humanitarian groups have been blocked from going into the conflict areas since French involvement in military operations.

Oxfam found that logistical challenges, the limited experience of in-country humanitarian organisations in dealing with emergencies and a small presence of the UN’s refugee agency in the region at the start of the crisis have all meant the response has been slow and insufficient.

There are now more than 55,000 refugees in Mauritania, 53,000 in Burkina Faso, and an estimated 1,500 in Algeria, and some camps are already said to be dangerously overcrowded.

Ilaria Allegrozzi, a policy manager for Oxfam in Mali, said: “Basic needs are not being covered in an equal way, particularly with regard to education, nutrition and protection. That’s what we’ve observed in the camps. In Niger, malnutrition rates, particularly among children are very high.”

Malnutrition rates amongst children under-five in Niger’s refugee camps are now at 21 per cent - way above the the threshold of 15 per cent, which the World Health Organisation uses to declare an emergency.

With so many more refugees expected in the coming months, Oxfam says those distributing aid need to adapt their programmes rapidly to better support host communities and those displaced. In many places the huge influx of refugees has put a strain on local people who were already struggling on limited resources. In the town of Bassikounou in Mauritania, for example, the town’s population of 42,000 is now dwarfed by the 54,000-strong camp nearby.

Tom McCormack, director of Save The Children’s programme in Mali, said the country : “Violence in any country is nasty, but because this is one of the poorest countries in the world, people who are displaced are stretched to the limit. Even in the good years in Mali, many people have nothing to fall back on. Last year we had the double whammy of these political problems, coupled with a food shortage. It created a lot of misery.”

The medical relief charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said on Friday it was being blocked access to Konna by both sides in the conflict. The charity said it was trying to send a medical team to the area to assess the needs and to deliver medical and humanitarian assistance.

“Despite our repeated requests, the authorities continue to refuse to grant us access to the area of Konna,” Malik Allaouna, MSF operations director, said. “It is critical that neutral, impartial medical and humanitarian aid be allowed into the areas affected by fighting. We call on all parties to the conflict to respect both the civilian populations and the work of humanitarian organisations.”

He continued: “MSF has been working in Mali for several months now, both in areas controlled by the army and in areas controlled by the various armed groups in the north of the country. But since the Malian and French forces began their offensive, we have not been able to cross the front lines despite our neutrality. Entire regions are now cut off from outside aid.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Executive is required to...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, an ...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£65000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A long-established, tech...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders