WHD 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mali - A l’occasion des élections, les communicateurs traditionnels deviennent messagers de la paix


Par le Programme des Nations Unies pour le Développement 


La cinquantaine, Mossa Al mouamar Ali, dit Moussa Moussa, arbore fièrement son boubou traditionnel cousu à la main par les couturiers de Tombouctou, dont la région est marquée aujourd’hui par une situation sécuritaire précaire.
 
Comme son père et son grand-père, Moussa Moussa est chef des griots de la région, conteurs d’histoires et dépositaires des traditions orales du Mali.
 
« Nous jouons notre rôle de griot dans le respect des règles que nous ont léguées nos ancêtres, » dit-il. « Par exemple lorsqu’il y a une querelle entre un mari et sa femme, nous intervenons et nous les réconcilions, si deux villages sont en conflit nous amenons la paix entre eux. Lorsque des gens veulent prendre des décisions importantes, nous pouvons être consultés et nous savons donner notre avis sur les différentes questions. »
 
En effet au Mali, les griots occupent une place importante dans l’organisation sociale, mariage, naissances, funérailles sont autant d’occasions qu’ils animent et organisent.
 
« On a déjà fait appel à moi pour intervenir dans des conflits, souvent des problèmes de champs, de terre. Vous savez, certaines personnes étudient le journalisme, d’autres l’informatique nous, voilà ce que nous savons faire et c’est parce que c’est nous que ça marche » Conscientes de leur rôle crucial, les autorités maliennes ont décidé de les associer aux activités de sensibilisation et d’éducation citoyennes précédant le scrutin présidentiel de juillet 2013.
 
Le vote sera soutenu par un projet d’appui au processus électoral financé par le gouvernement et les différents partenaires du Mali et dont les fonds sont gérés par le Programme des Nations Unies pour le développement (PNUD). Les élections constitueront l’une des étapes clés d’un retour à la paix, la stabilité et le développement.
 
On estime que le coût des élections s’élèvera à 128 millions de dollars US, dont 50 millions seront financés par le gouvernement malien.
 
Le PNUD sera également chargé d’appuyer les différents organes de gestion des élections, dont le Ministère de l’Administration territoriale, la Délégation générale des élections et la Commission électorale nationale indépendante dans leur mission d’organisation du scrutin. Il apportera également son soutien logistique au vote et à la mobilisation des électeurs, tout en promouvant paix et dialogue parmi les parties prenantes.
 
Les griots prendront part à la sensibilisation au vote, conseillant les communautés sur le maintien de la paix et l’harmonie lors du scrutin. Ils activeront leur réseau (Réseau des Communicateurs traditionnels pour le développement –RECOTRADE-) lors de la période pré-électorale.
 
Le 24 avril, un atelier a été organisé par le PNUD pour informer les communicateurs traditionnels sur les enjeux de la prévention de conflits en période électorale et permettre les échanges sur leur contribution pour promotion de la paix et du dialogue. Tenu à Bamako, l’atelier a réuni 50 griots ainsi que partenaires nationaux et internationaux.
 
« Il faut dialoguer avec tout le monde, il ne faut exclure personne, ainsi on arrivera à un résultat, » assure Moussa Moussa.
 
Lors de l’événement, le Représentant résident du PNUD au Mali, Aurélien Agbénonci, a affirmé : « L’organisation des prochaines élections constitue une étape importante dans la résolution de la crise. Votre contribution sera importante pour la construction du futur de ce pays. »
 
« Nous voyons l’intérêt des peuples, ce que les pauvres gens veulent c’est avant tout la tranquillité, la paix, nous allons faire passer ce message de paix,» ajoute Moussa Moussa.
 
Pour plus d’informations allez sur www.undp.org
Suivez le PNUD sur Twitter
 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Blacksmith forges a new life in Niger camp


By Bernard Ntwari in Agando, UNHCR / Niger


When Ali Mahmoud fled his home in eastern Mali last year, he took along a skill that has helped him survive, thrive and even find a wife in exile in western Niger.
 
The 40-year-old has been using his expertise as a blacksmith to earn a handsome living in the Agando refugee site since leaving his home eight months ago in Méneka, just across the border in Mali's Gao province.
 
His enterprise is encouraged by UNHCR, which has this year launched self-sufficiency projects in the camps. "We have started to organize income-generation activities in the refugee camps, not only to give refugees opportunities to earn money, but also to allow them to contribute to their living and not rely on assistance," explained Karl Steinacker, UNHCR's representative in Niger.
 
Ali specializes in making knives and the ornamental swords that are a part of Tuareg culture and proudly displays a range of his products to visitors from UNHCR. "These are the kinds of blades that I usually make," he says, adding that he also mends iron tools.
 
Business is brisk and he reckons that he earns the equivalent of about US$50 every day. "Every man here owns a sword or wants to own one," says Ali's father and fellow blacksmith, Galio.
 
Ali says it takes him three or four days to make an ornamental knife or sword with engravings. He buys the metal, including iron and copper, at the market [in Agando] and forms, heat treats and finishes the blades using hammers and a simple anvil outside his shelter made of straw and branches. A good knife sells for US$50, while a sword and sheath command a price of US$100.
 
Ali uses his skills as a blacksmith to turn pieces of metal into tools and weapons.
People also come to get their damaged tools and blades mended by Ali and a queue starts building up outside his home from early morning. He accepts barter – normally food – from those who cannot pay in cash.
 
"Nobody else here can work with iron as well as Ali," says Hawlata, after handing over half a kilo of flour to get her household knives repaired and sharpened. "He is a skilled man," echoes Habba, the smithy's neighbour. He brought an axe to be fixed.
 
In Agando, Ali's success has brought him more business than he ever had in Méneka, where all his earnings went to support his parents, two brothers and sister. But now, for the first time, he is earning enough to get married. And he's picked a bride – Anata. She's 18 years old and comes from his home village.
 
"I'm very happy to have met Anata," he says, adding that he has saved around US$600 to pay for the dowry. "I love her very much," the smitten blacksmith says as he sips hot tea from a small glass.
 
Meanwhile, Ali is preparing to move to a safer camp deeper inside Niger at Intikan, which is located some 80 kilometres from the border. UNHCR will be helping about 17,000 Malian refugees to the new site, where it will also be easier to provide them with protection and assistance.
 
He's looking forward to the move and is confident that his business will thrive there too. "I am eager to go as soon as possible to Intikan, where I hope the number of my customers will double or triple," says Ali. If business is that good he hopes to hire other refugees.
 
Meanwhile, his neighbours and friends, are happy that they will be able to continue to rely on his services in the new camp. "He is an asset to our community and we are happy we can move with him to Intikan," says Habba. And Ali hopes he can benefit from UNHCR's livelihood's programme there.
 
There are currently more than 50,000 Malian refugees living in Niger.
 
For more go to www.unhcr.org
 
 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Au Mali, une meilleure information sur l’allaitement au sein sauve des vies d’enfants

 

Par Nena Nedeljkovic


Au Mali, un programme lutte au niveau local contre la malnutrition. L’allaitement exclusif au sein sauve les vies. Aminata Coulibaly, du village de Kesso, dans la région de Sikasso, a pu observer directement son impact.


Malnutrition aiguë


Aminata Coulibaly a perdu ses deux premiers enfants à cause de la malnutrition aiguë. Parce qu’elle n’était pas au courant de l’importance de l’allaitement exclusif au sein pour les enfants jusqu’à l’âge de six mois, Aminata nourrissait ses deux premiers enfants de beurre de karité et d’eau chaude, une préparation extrêmement courante localement.
 
Le mélange faisait gonfler leurs petits ventres sans leur apporter les nutriments dont ils avaient besoin. À cause de la lourdeur de la préparation et des difficultés de digestion dans leur petit estomac, les enfants dormaient de longues heures, donnant à Aminata Coulibaly la fausse impression qu’ils étaient correctement alimentés.
 
Par la suite, à cause de la malnutrition aiguë qui a résulté de ce régime, les deux enfants sont morts.


Soutien au sein de la communauté

 
© UNICEF Mali/2013/Nedeljkovic
Les efforts de communication de l’ASDAP, un partenaire
de l’UNICEF, ont produit des changements dans la région
de Sikasso, au Mali. Les enfants sont en bonne santé et
s’épanouissent grâce à l’allaitement exclusif au sein
et à des compléments alimentaires appropriés.
Aujourd’hui, le troisième enfant d’Aminata Coulibaly, Chatta Dembelé, est un bambin en bonne santé et heureux, grâce à l’appui apporté à la communauté par l’Association pour le soutien du développement des activités de population (ASDAP), en partenariat avec l’UNICEF.
 
L’ASDAP est une ONG partenaire de l’UNICEF qui a pour objectif de faire connaître aux communautés de la région de Sikasso, outre les autres comportements familiaux indispensables, l’importance de l’allaitement exclusif au sein. L’UNICEF apporte une assistance technique et financière à l’ASDAP depuis 2008 pour qu’elle fasse passer une meilleure information dans les villages de la région.
 
La coordinatrice de l’ASDAP, le Dr Aïssata Traoré Diakité, a travaillé avec les femmes du village. Selon elle, le plus grand changement apporté concerne l’estime de soi des femmes. Se rencontrant tous les mardi au bureau de l’ASDAP à Koutiala, les femmes apprennent, font connaître leurs histoires, partagent leurs expériences, chantent et dansent. Après les séances, elles partagent chez elles, avec leurs maris et leurs familles, les connaissances qu’elles ont acquises, propageant ainsi les informations au sein de leur communauté.


Soutien pour les Maliens déplacés


Depuis le début du conflit au Mali, Sikasso accueille les Maliens du nord déplacés à l’intérieur du pays. L’ASDAP a travaillé avec ces familles pour leur apporter aussi des informations essentielles en vue d’un changement de comportement.
 
Nana Assarkiné s’est enfuie de Douentza, dans la région de Mopti, en 2012. Elle est arrivée à Koutiala où sa mère, Lala Touré - responsable qualifiée de la communication à l’ASDAP  mais aussi musukoroba (chef de communauté et de famille) -  lui a suggéré de passer du temps avec les autres femmes participant aux séances de l’ADSAP.
 
« L’ASDAP m’a aidée à mieux comprendre l’importance des moustiquaires pour la prévention du paludisme, » dit Nana Assarkiné. Les dépenses de santé de sa famille ont été réduites, ses cinq enfants tombant moins souvent malades grâce aux moustiquaires.
 
Ces séances ont aussi apporté à Nana Assarkiné le soutien psychosocial dont elle avait besoin à la suite de son départ de Douentza.


Nécessité de transposer les programmes à plus grande échelle


La région de Sikasso est le grenier du Mali, approvisionnant les autres régions du pays en fruits, légumes, viande et céréales. Pourtant, Sikasso est la région la plus mal alimentée du pays avec un taux de malnutrition chronique de 35,4%.
 
Une partie du problème tient à ce que les producteurs locaux vendent presque tout ce qu’ils cultivent, ayant du mal à comprendre l’importance de ce qu’ils produisent. Par conséquent, il leur reste très peu de choses pour nourrir leurs enfants.
 
Les aspects culturels jouent aussi leur rôle dans la malnutrition de l’enfant. En particulier, les enfants ne sont pas vraiment perçus comme des membres de la famille jusqu’à ce qu’ils deviennent productifs et contribuent au revenu familial. Les chefs de familles obtiennent en premier la plus grande part de la nourriture, ce qui a un impact significatif sur la santé des enfants.
 
Mais la diffusion d’informations, comme celle qu’organise l’ASDAP,  est en train d’amener les changements de comportements nécessaires au niveau de la communauté.
 
Une action plus importante est nécessaire pour produire les autres changements de comportement indispensables dans la région. Face à l’avenir, davantage de partenariats appuyant les responsables locaux des services sanitaires et sociaux doivent être mis en place afin que les programmes puissent être intensifiés.
 
Pour sa part, l’UNICEF espère pouvoir aider les autorités locales en termes d’une meilleure organisation et d’une meilleure communication ainsi qu’épauler les ONG locales pour mener plus avant les changements de comportement.
 
Pour plus visitez www.unicef.org
 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mali: One year after the crisis began, needs remain massive and challenging


By Moustapha Diallo, The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
 

A few months ago, several humanitarian organizations suspended their activities in northern Mali when cities such as Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal were still under insurgent control. The Mali Red Cross Society, with support from its Red Cross Red Crescent partners, and a few other organizations, braved the danger posed by the conflict to provide lifesaving assistance to thousands of people who remained in the north, and to those who ran to safety in the central and southern regions of the country.
 
In Mopti, in central Mali, where over 40,000 people have sought refuge, the society has been one of the leading agencies in humanitarian operations.

“We were overwhelmed by the sudden and massive influx of people fleeing from the north. The streets were crowded with people,” says Moumouni Damango, regional president of the crisis committee in Mopti. “The Mali Red Cross Society was the first humanitarian organization to come alongside us, bringing its experience and support.”
 
In the early hours of the crisis, hundreds of Red Cross volunteers were mobilized to provide first aid and to transport those who were sick to health facilities. They worked tirelessly to accommodate the displaced, provided them comfort and ensured they had shelter.
 
Given the deterioration of sanitary facilities and challenging hygiene conditions due to overcrowding, volunteers were also mobilized to raise awareness about hygiene, provide drinking water and organize demonstration sessions on water treatment.
 
“The displaced people now make up more than 7.5 per cent of the population of Mopti. Imagine the pressure in terms of water and latrines needs,” said Dr Mahamane Koumaré, Regional Director of Health in Mopti. “Fortunately, thanks to the Red Cross, prevention activities have proven successful. We have not recorded a single case of cholera in an area where it is endemic."
 
The Mali Red Cross Society estimates that displaced people make up
approximately 7.5 per cent of the population of Mopti. Moustapha Diallo/IFRC
 
Since the crisis erupted, the Mali Red Cross Society, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Committee of the Red Cross, Movement partners and other organizations, has distributed hundreds of tons of food to displaced people and host families. Essential items including tents, tarpaulins, mosquito nets, soap, and kitchen sets were also provided.
 
The needs of displaced populations and host families remain enormous. Living conditions are poor. Many are still traumatized from what they have witnessed and wait for a better security situation before returning home.
 
For those who want to return now, the way back will not be easy. Without assistance from the Red Cross, the UN and others it will be difficult to return and rebuild their lives in the villages they left. Plans are underway to ensure help is there when people do return.
 
The Mali Red Cross Society recently conducted an assessment to identify what people will need. Indications are they will need everything: shelter, water, food, health care and support in re-establishing their livelihoods. “One of the new areas of focus in our work will consist of putting in place a programme of assistance and support to returnees in the north," said Mamadou Traore, Secretary General of the Mali Red Cross Society. “To achieve this however, we will need the support of all. The needs are too great for us to do it alone.”
 
For more go to www.ifrc.org

 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

UNHCR urgently needs funding to continue assisting displaced Malians


By UNHCR


The UN refugee agency on Friday renewed an appeal for millions of dollars to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of Malian refugees and almost 300,000 internally displaced people.
 
"UNHCR needs US$144 million to cover the basic protection and assistance needs. So far we have received only 32 per cent of this amount," spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva. "The financial requirements and activities presented in the Special Appeal are not additional to the ones approved by our Executive Committee in 2012 but reflect a reprioritization of UNHCR's budget based on the latest developments in the region," he added.

The funding UNHCR is seeking is to allow for expansion and construction of transit centres, provision of supplementary and therapeutic food, shelters and other relief items, and delivery of basic services such as health care, water and sanitation and education.

There are currently more than 175,000 Malian refugees in surrounding countries. This includes 75,850 refugees in Mauritania, over 49,000 in Burkina Faso and some 50,000 in Niger. "The special appeal we are issuing today covers the needs of this population plus up to 45,500 additional refugees anticipated during 2013 – based on existing rates of arrival," Edwards said.

In addition to the refugee population there are more than 282,000 internally displaced people (IDP). Funding for them is also urgently needed. UNHCR leads efforts to coordinate activities of the protection and shelter clusters.

Displacement from Mali into neighbouring countries is continuing. More than 35,000 people have become refugees since the French military intervention in January (and, according to UN figures, there are an additional 60,000 IDPs).


Malian refugee children take shelter from a dust storm in Burkina Faso's
Goudebou refugee camp. The needs for displaced Malians
remain great.
© UNHCR/B.Sokol


"According to our staff on the ground, many recent arrivals are in worse condition than the refugees who arrived last year, requiring immediate relief and attention. The humanitarian situation is also being aggravated by prevailing food insecurity as a result of ongoing drought and a series of crop failures affecting the entire Sahel region," Edwards said.

In Mauritania – which hosts the largest number of Malian refugees – at the end of last year there were more than 54,000 Malians. The military intervention in northern Mali prompted a new influx of refugees, with an average of 500 new arrivals per day during January and February – amounting to more than 21,000 people. People are continuing to arrive, but in smaller numbers.

The new influx requires an expanded response in life-saving sectors, including in food and non-food items, water, sanitation, nutrition, health, education, shelter and environmental areas.

Several measures have been taken to treat and prevent malnutrition at the Mbera refugee camp, including distribution of nutritional supplements to infants, organization of awareness sessions for mothers, increased access to health facilities, launch of a measles vaccination campaign and installation of better water and sanitation infrastructure. This has led to a reduction in acute malnutrition rates of refugee children (under five years) from 20 per cent to 13 per cent. Additional funding is required to improve prevention and response mechanisms.

In Niger, the latest wave of refugees (some 2,700) in the remote north in late March and early April is mainly composed of women and children, escaping the military operations in Kidal and Menaka on foot or donkey. Reception conditions are precarious, mainly owing to a lack of water and health facilities.

UNHCR and the World Food Programme have already provided them with food and emergency non-food items while also redeploying staff and resources to this isolated area. "A recent inter-agency survey to assess the feeding programmes shows positive results, but continued efforts are required to counter prevailing malnutrition in the four refugee camps of Niger," UNHCR's Edwards noted.

In Burkina Faso, the majority of the new arrivals have been settled in Goudebou camp, where a recent nutrition survey organized by UNHCR, WFP and the national health authorities showed an alarmingly high global acute malnutrition rate of 24.5 per cent. UNHCR and its partners have completed screening of all children under five years of age and have started treatment of malnutrition cases.

Preparation is under way for blanket feeding programmes, including fortified cereals and micro-nutrient powder for children under five years and supplements or fortified blended food to all pregnant and lactating women.

One of the main protection priorities in Burkina Faso and Niger is to relocate refugees away from the formal and informal sites that are too close to the border or to military installations.
 
For more go to www.unhcr.org
 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reaching Resilience

How to put resilience into practice?


 

By Groupe URD


« Reaching Resilience » is a Serious Game that will help practitioners shape their resilience-related project by asking a series of questions based on criteria and indicators from the handbook.


• Learn about the concepts and challenges of resilience and the questions it raises;

• Take on the role of a field worker in a fictional context and see how these different issues affect each different phase of the project cycle.

For more go to http://www.urd.org

To try it out go to http://www.reachingresilience.org/Play

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Learning the Lessons in the Sahel


By Elise Ford, Humanitarian Policy Advisor / Oxfam



In 2012, the Sahel region of West Africa faced in 3 crises in 7 years.  It was unprecedented in its scale – it affected 18 million people across 9 countries – from Senegal in the West across 4,000km to Chad in the East. And yet, the crisis rarely received the media headlines and attention it deserved.  Marred in a cycle of hunger and chronic poverty, the story of a crisis in this region is no longer seen as news. Suffering was not thought to be sufficiently extreme. And yet, going to communities such as those in the Guera region in Chad, there could be no doubt that poor and vulnerable people had been pushed to the brink of survival. Mothers told me of how they had cut back the number of times they ate to just once or twice a day.  They were forced to bring together scraps to find enough to eat – resorting to boiling nettles or digging anthills for grain. 
 
I came to West Africa from Nairobi having dealt with the response to the famine that savaged part of Somalia the previous year.  In East Africa, there had been outcry and disappointment at the collective failure to respond to the early warnings received.  Oxfam had pointed to a widespread culture of risk aversion that had resulted in a ‘dangerous delay’, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of lives and livelihoods. We knew that it could have been different.
 
As warnings emerged that the harvests had been poor and that the Sahel could face a similar crisis, food security experts in the region appeared determined that they would not repeat the mistakes of East Africa. This time they wanted things to be different.  In a Oxfam report released today ‘Learning the Lessons: assessing the response to 2012 food crisis in the Sahel to build resilience’, we analyse to what extent we really were able to do better this time and come to some worrying conclusions.
 
First, the good news. As soon as the first warnings were issued, governments began to issue appeals and agencies and donors came together to begin planning an appropriate response.  Some donors provided the first contributions for the crisis already at the end of 2011, allowing assistance to provided to those communities most in need before they even began to feel the effects of the critical food shortages and rocketing prices to come.
 
But the overall verdict is mixed at best. Although there were some initial positive steps, it is clear that the response was still not as good as it could or should have been, nor as many have been claiming. Despite new willingness from governments in the region, there were still critical gaps in their capacity to lead – something we must all take responsibility for.  A lack of consensus around the severity of the crisis led to a critical delay in the response. Donors still preferred to wait for certainty, rather than act on the basis of risk. 50% of the funding requested was still lacking by June. 5.6 million farmers didn’t receive the seeds and tools they needed in time for the main harvest, to help them produce the food to recover. The same old mistakes and flaws from past response reappeared. We’re still failing to learn the lessons.
 
There is increasing acknowledgement – from Oxfam and others - that the only way these challenges will be overcome is by adopting a new model of doing business rather tweaking an old one. Resilience - the ability of households to survive and thrive despite shocks and stresses – has become an important concept, offering hope that the cycle of hunger can be broken once and for all.  In the immediate resilience means investing in the poorest and most vulnerable communities so that they can recover from this latest crisis and build up the capacity to better cope in the face of future shocks. 
 
Whilst the 2012 crisis may have come too soon, it is also clear that we can afford no further delay. Conditions in the region are becoming increasingly precarious and unpredictable. The population in the Sahel increases 3% each year – making it constantly harder to produce enough food to meet needs. Climate change threatens to further exacerbate the problem – reducing yields and cultivable land.  According to the FAO, with appropriate action, climate change could mean an additional million people in Mali could fall into poverty by 2050. For some communities that Oxfam works with in Niger, that they describe only one in every three years as a ‘normal’ year.  Rocked by one crisis after another, there are limited prospects for the most vulnerable to escape from poverty.
 
The challenge is making change happen. The failings of the 2012 response and the poor showing so far in 2013 demonstrate the huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality that still needs to be overcome. Ongoing needs in the region are huge. 10 million people are still food insecure. 5 million are acutely malnourished. The road to recovery will be long. And yet, UN humanitarian appeals for 2013 – designed to meet immediate humanitarian and recovery needs and build the foundations of resilience in the region – remain desperately underfunded. Less than one quarter of the funds needed have been provided so far this year.  Donors have provided few concrete commitments on money to build resilience and improve food security in the region. National governments still need to convert unprecedented political will into actual policies.
 
The region will inevitably face more crises in the future. When those crises do hit, we must hope communities will be better prepared to withstand and thrive despite of them.  It is the actions that we do or do not take over the next months and years that will be critical in deciding that.

For more go to www.oxfam.org
Follow oxfam on Twitter

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

WFP working to bring urgently-needed food to northern Mali as food security worsens 


By the World Food Program


 
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is urgently working with partner organizations to reach families in northern Mali whose access to food has been reduced by the on-going conflict and is expected to worsen with the oncoming lean season, from April to June.
 
“I was able to go to Timbuktu last week and see how critical the humanitarian situation really is,” said Sally Haydock, WFP Country Director in Mali. “The areas around Timbuktu are unsecured and difficult to access, markets are not functioning properly, foods prices are high, fuel prices are high, and there is a lack of liquidity, which means that people are not able to buy the basic necessities.”
 
In the northern regions of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, one household out of five faces extreme food shortages, with a significant deterioration of household food consumption in over the past weeks, according to recent analysis by the humanitarian community.

video

 
WFP is stepping up its efforts to transport food, both by road and river. Deliveries by road to Kidal resumed last week; with 24 trucks carrying 700 metric tons of food successfully reaching the region. 
 
Emergency school feeding is underway in 128 schools in Gao to assist 28,100 school children. Additionally, the school feeding programme has begun in Timbuktu this month in 76 schools.
 
In April, WFP is planning to provide food assistance to 145,000 people in Timbuktu; 86,700 in Gao; 34,500 in Kidal and 130,000 in Mopti, In other parts of the country WFP is planning to reach 37,000 vulnerable people in Ségou and 4,100 in Kayes.
 
Under its current emergency operation, WFP plans to support 564,000 people in Mali on a monthly basis, including about 360,000 in the North. WFP also plans to assist 163,000 Malian refugees on a monthly basis in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger.
 
WFP operations in Mali and neighbouring countries require around US$312 million. The overall shortfall is US$159 million. The operation is currently 51 per cent funded.
 
For more visit www.wfp.org
follow WFP on Twitter

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jean-Louis Mosser, Expert santé pour
le département d'aide humanitaire
de l'Union Européenne (ECHO)

Point sur la santé au Mali


Propos recueillis par Anouk Delafortrie, Commission Européenne / ECHO



Trois mois après le début de l’intervention militaire au Mali, la situation reste extrêmement volatile dans ce pays qui se trouve en situation précaire au niveau humanitaire, alimentaire et nutritionnelle. Les populations maliennes réfugiées et déplacées n’ont pas encore entamé de voyage retour en masse, ce mouvement de retour ne pouvant se réaliser que suite à un rétablissement des services de base ainsi qu’à de meilleures conditions de sécurité dans le nord du pays. Jean-Louis Mosser, expert santé pour le département d’aide humanitaire de l’UE (ECHO) en Afrique de l’Ouest, revient d’une mission au Mali et décrit la situation.

Quel était le but de ta mission au Mali ?


J’y suis allé pour faire le point sur la situation sanitaire. J’ai rencontré toutes les ONGs médicales, partenaires d’ECHO, qui travaillent sur des projets d’urgence dans le nord du pays.

Lors de ma dernière visite en décembre, les groupes d’extrémistes occupaient toujours les régions du nord et une menace permanente sévissait sur les districts au nord de Mopti qui n’étaient plus administrés. Malgré la présence de quelques ONGs, la couverture sanitaire était incomplète, notamment dans certains districts de la région de Gao et de Tombouctou.

L’intervention militaire a permis de chasser ces groupes d’extrémistes hors des villes principales et des axes routiers. Mais, aucune administration ne s’est encore concrètement réinstallée. Certains directeurs de la santé s’apprêtent à revenir, mais de manière provisoire, pour évaluer la situation.

Sans la présence de préfets, ni de responsables des districts sanitaires, le personnel médical des centres de santé ne revient pas. Quelques infirmiers seulement sont rentrés car ils savent que des ONGs sont sur place et apportent des médicaments. Ce sont les ONGs qui assurent les soins de santé dans le nord et ce sera certainement le cas jusqu’à la fin de l’année.

Quels sont les problèmes majeurs dans le domaine de la santé ?


Le manque important de soins préventifs et médicaux, la barrière financière qui empêche les plus pauvres d’avoir accès aux soins de santé ainsi que des structures de santé peu fonctionnelles sont les principaux problèmes constatés. Trop de personnes, et surtout des enfants de moins de cinq ans, meurent de paludisme et de diarrhées, faute de soins. Le Mali affiche le troisième taux de mortalité infantile le plus élevé au monde.

Au nord de Mopti, nous découvrons également un taux de malnutrition sévère. Globalement, depuis l’année dernière, nous observons une dégradation de la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle comme partout ailleurs dans le Sahel. La situation est toutefois probablement pire au Mali en raison d’une prise en charge d’enfants mal nourris qui a fait défaut dans le nord suite au conflit et, d’une manière générale, à la faiblesse des services de santé étatiques. Un dépistage actif des cas de malnutrition n’est toujours pas possible dans tous les villages. Ceci dit, la référence des cas détectés d’enfants mal nourris et leur prise en charge se sont nettement améliorées grâce aux ONGs qui ont su rester actives et présentes au Mali.


Quelle est la stratégie d’ECHO par rapport au secteur de la santé ?


En décembre dernier, ayant identifié des lacunes majeures en terme de couverture sanitaire, nous avions demandé aux ONGs présentes si elles pouvaient étendre leur rayon d’action et nous avons contacté de nouveaux partenaires pour compléter le dispositif. Aujourd’hui, la couverture sanitaire dans le nord du pays est bien meilleure même si elle n’est pas encore totalement satisfaisante.

Nous essayons d’offrir un paquet minimum de soins médicaux et préventifs, un traitement correct de la malnutrition et un système de référence fonctionnel. Ce paquet minimum n’est pas respecté partout, mais nous essayons de faire en sorte que chaque district ait un centre de santé de référence qui fonctionne correctement. Nous ne pouvons pas siéger partout comme une administration. Nous privilégions donc les endroits fortement peuplés, les axes routiers, les villes et les gros bourgs afin de réduire une part importante de la population qui n’a pas accès aux soins de santé. J’estime que globalement nous soutenons en moyenne 40% des structures de santé existantes et que ces structures couvrent les besoins sanitaires de 60 à 70 % de la population totale du Nord du Mali.

Quelles sont les conséquences de l’insécurité persistante ?


Cela peut paraître paradoxal, mais avant l’intervention militaire internationale, les interlocuteurs étaient connus par les ONGs qui avaient réussi, petit à petit, à créer un espace humanitaire étroit. Les cliniques mobiles pouvaient circuler sans être ‘rackettées’ ou sans courir le risque de sauter sur des explosifs. A présent, la plupart des cliniques mobiles sont suspendues/à l’arrêt. La tendance est de soutenir des centres de santé de façon plus permanente grâce à du staff qui reste en place. Cela pose évidemment un problème, notamment lorsqu’il faut faire face aux épidémies quand des déplacements sont nécessaires pour faire les investigations et qu’il faut contrer ces épidémies. Heureusement les épidémies de rougeole de ces derniers mois à Kidal et Ansongo ont pu être correctement gérées par des ONGs.

Pour quand la passation aux autorités sanitaires ?


Il existe un plan de retour des autorités mais vu la situation d’insécurité, les conditions ne semblent pas encore réunies pour que cette transition ait lieu très prochainement. Quand la majorité des services de base sociaux et administratifs seront remis en route, nous pourrons y songer.

Les médecins qui se sont réfugiés à Bamako ont aidé les ONGs à trouver des référents, c’est-à-dire des personnes qualifiées qui sont restées sur place. Au quotidien, celles-ci s’associent à l’administration de Bamako et à l’ONG. Cela se passe relativement bien.

Entretemps, la majorité du personnel médical a été réaffecté vers d’autres régions. Dans le nord, les banques restent fermées, il y a une pénurie de ‘cash’, de vivres, et toujours de l’insécurité… Nous serons certainement encore en mode d’urgence jusqu’à la fin de l’année.

Pour plus visitez http://ec.europa.eu/echo/
Suivez ECHO sur Twitter

Monday, April 15, 2013

New health centres and community outreach tackle Chad's nutrition crisis


By Laure Poinsot, UNICEF CHAD


 
A new report by UNICEF to be issued on 15 April reveals the high prevalence of stunting in children under 5, but also outlines the tremendous opportunities that exist to make it a problem of the past.

 
MONGO, Chad – The father wipes his eyes with the sleeve of his white boubou. “We did all we could,” says Dr. Kaimbo. “Unfortunately, the boy was too weak.”
 
Days like today weigh heavily on Dr. Kaimbo, who is part of a UNICEF-supported programme aimed at saving the lives of children affected by nutrition crisis in Chad. The programme is funded, among others, by the European Union humanitarian aid department (ECHO).
 
UNICEF reports on how new health centres and community
outreach are targeting the vicious circle of disease
and malnutrition in Chad.
 
Chad experiences chronic drought, among its harsh and erratic climatic conditions. The country is also faced with massive developmental challenges. Nearly 20 per cent of children die before their fifth birthdays. During periods of drought, many children suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
 
“[I]t’s not just drought and famine that causes malnutrition,” says UNICEF Chad Representative Bruno Maes. “There are three big factors in the vicious circle of disease and malnutrition. One is food insecurity due to bad harvests and rising food prices. Second is the poor health services. And the third is the parents’ lack of knowledge about food and basic hygiene. Then there’re also the risks associated with child marriages and polygamy.”
 

Scaling up the response

 
© UNICEF VIDEO
The programme is reaching out to the growing number
of malnourished children in Chad.
In response to nutrition crisis in Chad and the Sahel Belt region, UNICEF, the Government of Chad and partners such as ECHO have scaled up services and facilities to treat the growing number of children affected by malnutrition. “The number of treatment centres has doubled, from 210 to 425,” says Mr. Maes. “Two hundred thirty paramedics have been trained and despatched; hundreds of tonnes of supplies and materials have been delivered to reach as many children as possible.”

UNICEF recruits, trains and deploys paramedics. It also supports establishing therapeutic nutrition centres and outpatient nutrition centres, setting up nutrition outreach efforts and purchasing supplies.
 
Health official in the Guera region Dr. Honoré Dembayo says that these efforts have helped to alleviate some of the shortages of medicine and healthcare staff. “All this explains the good results seen in Guera – a cure rate of over 75 per cent.”
 

Screening and treatment for malnutrition


The success in Guera region is largely the result of careful screening of children at the community level and at health centres to make sure they receive the treatment they need – when they need it. Children are tested for malnutrition by checking their height and weight, the circumference of their mid-upper arm and any swelling. Depending on the results, they may be admitted into the nutrition programme.
 
The children then take an appetite test. They are given ready-to-use-therapeutic food made up of a peanut butter paste enriched with sugar and vitamins.
 
“Children who struggle to eat [the therapeutic food] have reached a highly advanced stage of malnutrition,” says UNICEF Nutrition Officer Jean-Pierre Mansimadji Mandibaye. “They are immediately taken to hospital, because their lives are in danger.

“The others can benefit from our programme and receive packets of therapeutic product. They must return every week until they’re cured.”
 

Outreach in communities


Once the children are back home, outreach volunteers monitor progress throughout the treatment period. They also teach families about good hygiene and nutrition, to keep the problem from recurring.
 
“It’s a lot of work, but I’m proud of saving children,” says Abderrahim Massadi, an outreach volunteer in Koulji, 15 km from Mongo.
 
There are 250 families in the village of Koulji, including about 1,500 children. One of these children is Saidja’s son. The little boy has successfully completed his treatment, and now Saidja is applying the skills she’s learned to keep him healthy. With support from the outreach volunteers, she has learned to make a healthier porridge for him, using fresh ingredients when she can afford them.
 
“I put in millet, some beans, a bit of peanut butter and sugar,” she says. “Since I started making him this porridge, he doesn’t get sick anymore. They also taught me to use soap to wash his hands and mouth before meals, and how to properly clean the kitchen utensils.”
 
For more go to www.unicef.org

 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Mali: Conditions remain hard, the needs acute


Photo gallery by ICRC


Northern Mali has been the scene of armed violence for almost 16 months. Conditions remain hard, and the needs acute. To continue to help the hundreds of thousands of people suffering the effects of the conflict, the ICRC has launched an appeal for an additional CHF 40 million.



 
 
For more visit www.icrc.org


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mali: ICRC appeals for funds to boost aid effort

by International Committee of the Red Cross




Now that northern Mali has been in the grip of armed violence for almost 16 months, the living conditions of people affected by the conflict are very worrying and humanitarian needs substantial.
 
To continue to provide appropriate assistance for hundreds of thousands of people caught up in the conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is asking donors for 40 million Swiss francs (around 33 million euros) in additional support.
 
"Communities have been hard hit. They need food, water and health care," said Régis Savioz, the ICRC's deputy director of operations, at a press conference in Bamako. "They need to regain a certain ability to fend for themselves so that they will ultimately be able to forgo outside help."
 
At the end of a visit that included a journey to Gao and Mopti, in the north of the country, Mr Savioz expressed the view that the unstable situation and the violence in northern cities are making living conditions even more difficult. "No significant return of refugees or other displaced people has so far been observed," he said.
 
The additional funding, bringing the ICRC's budget for Mali and Niger to around 75 million Swiss francs (around 61 million euros), will enable the organization to press ahead with the activities it has long been carrying out in the two countries. The operation in Mali and Niger will become the ICRC's second biggest in the world in budgetary terms.

Goundam, Tombouctou region, Mali.
Mali Red Cross volunteers distribute food to displaced people.
© ICRC / I. Sangaré
 
"Every donation will enable us to increase our aid wherever necessary; priority will be given to those who need it most," said Mr Savioz. "To be able to better understand and respond to the needs, we intend to step up our work in Mali, especially in the Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu areas. The time to take action is right now."
 
Mr Savioz also emphasized the importance of the efforts made by the Mali Red Cross to bring aid to needy people. "The Mali Red Cross plays an essential role in Mali, where it is a key partner of the ICRC," he declared. "Without the Mali Red Cross and the cooperation of its thousands of volunteers, to whom I would like to pay tribute, we would quite simply be unable to carry out our aid activities."
 
Around 420,000 people will be given food aid throughout the year and some 186,000 farmers will be provided with seed. In addition, the vaccination and treatment of two million animals and the distribution of 510 tonnes of animal feed will enable 35,000 herding families to maintain their livelihood.
 
The ICRC will continue to provide support for the regional referral hospital in Gao and for community health-care centres. It will also continue to help supply fuel for electrical power stations in the main cities in the north of the country to ensure that water is available to inhabitants.
 
ICRC delegates will carry on visiting people detained in connection with the conflict. Following an agreement signed this very day with the Malian government, the ICRC expects to step up its activities for detainees and to have access to all places of detention in the country.

To view new footage on northern Mali: www.icrcvideonewsroom.org
For more visit www.icrc.org

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

L'insécurité, un problème majeur pour les habitants de Douentza au Mali (Photos)

Par Koffy Dominique, Danish Refugee Council



L’insécurité oblige la population à s’orienter vers d’autres points pour s’approvisionner en eau potable

 
Suite à l’insécurité liée aux coupeurs de routes et aux vols de bétail dans la zone transfrontalière entre le Mali et le Burkina Faso, les éleveurs ne peuvent plus conduire les animaux vers les marres pour s’abreuver. L’on observe alors une grande affluence vers les autres points d’eau existants, ce qui provoque, d’une part, des tensions intercommunautaires et, d’autre part, des conflits entre éleveurs et population locale.



Le lycée de Douentza détruit au cours du conflit armé


La destruction par bombardement des bâtiments du Lycée de Douentza a perturbé l’année scolaire de plus de 3 500 élèves du second cycle.




Quand est-ce que les obus seront enlevés pour soulager la population ?


Beaucoup de débris restent encore visibles sur la route entre Mopti et Douentza, ce qui pose un problème de sécurité pour les familles qui vivent à proximité.

 
 

 Pour plus allez sur http://www.drc.dk/home/
Suivez le Danish Refugee Council sur Twitter

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Un autre regard sur la situation des femmes déplacées au Mali

Par Habibatou Gologo,Coordinatrice Média et communication, Oxfam GB Mali


Kadidiatou Yara est chargée de programme Education et coordinatrice d’un projet d’Oxfam destiné à maintenir les filles scolarisées dans la capitale du Mali, Bamako, depuis 2010. Elle a fait partie de l’équipe d’Oxfam qui a conduit une évaluation en février 2013 dans les régions de Mopti et de Ségou, au centre du Mali. Elle nous raconte ci-dessous le déroulement de cette mission d’évaluation et le choc qu’elle a eu lors de ses rencontres avec des femmes déplacées.

L’objectif de notre mission était entre autres de mesurer l’impact du conflit en cours au Mali sur la population déplacée, les communautés hôtes et les personnes aux revenus faibles.

Notre équipe était composée de sept personnes représentant chacune un domaine de compétence différent comme la logistique, la sécurité alimentaire, l’hygiène et l’assainissement, le suivi-évaluation et la communication. Je m’occupais de l’aspect protection et ne travaillais donc pas de la même façon que les autres membres de mon équipe parce que mes groupes de discussion étaient uniquement réservés aux femmes et jeunes filles et abordaient des sujets qui requièrent beaucoup de discrétion.
 
A la périphérie

Cette précaution m’a permis d’avoir un autre regard sur les quelque 200 femmes avec qui j’ai pu discuter à Sévaré, Konna, Douentza et San* au cours d’un périple d’une dizaine de jours sur plus de 1500 kilomètres.

Mon impression personnelle, au-delà du travail d’Oxfam, était un sentiment de compassion pour ces femmes qui ont quitté leurs foyers pour s’installer dans un environnement malsain. Elles vivent en insécurité, et dans des conditions précaires, dans des maisons de location ou des maisons inachevées, souvent à la périphérie des zones urbaines.

Kadidiatou Yara est allée à la rencontre de femmes déplacées dans plusieurs villes du
Mali, notamment à Konna (Habibatou Gologo, Oxfam)
 
 
Des difficultés différentes d'une ville à l'autre

D’une ville à l’autre, les difficultés rencontrées par les femmes ne sont pas identiques. Par exemple à Konna et Douentza,  où l’armée a procédé à des frappes aériennes,  il n’y a pas beaucoup de déplacés et  les besoins exprimés sont principalement l’eau et l’électricité.

Alors qu’à Sévaré, où on trouve de nombreux déplacés, les femmes, bien que recensées par les autorités, déplorent un manque de soutien qui, pour elles, se traduit par leur non accès aux dons distribués par les différentes organisations. Ces femmes vivent  en permanence dans la peur, la tourmente et la psychose. La nuit, certaines n’arrivent pas à trouver le sommeil. D’autres disent avoir perdu du poids.

A Konna, notamment, les femmes rencontrées revivent sans cesse les frappes aériennes de l’armée française aux alentours du 10 janvier 2013.

Des conditions de vie difficiles

La plupart se plaignent de l'insalubrité à laquelle elles ne sont pas habituées et d’autres conditions de vie qu’elles trouvent difficiles. Elles n’apprécient donc pas qu’on les voit ainsi.

Afin de les aider à retrouver leur dignité, ces femmes ont besoin d’un soutien psychologique. Cet appui pourrait commencer par l’organisation de discussions qui les pousseront à parler, à raconter leurs difficultés. Ensuite, nous pourrons les appuyer avec des activités génératrices de revenus comme elles en ont exprimé le besoin. »

* Sévaré, Konna et Douentza se trouvent dans la région de Mopti et San dans la région de Ségou.

Propos recueillis par Habibatou Gologo,Coordinatrice Média et communication, Oxfam GB Mali .

Pour plus d'informations visitez http://www.oxfam.org/fr
Suivez Oxfam sur Twitter

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Sahel Food Crisis and #SahelNow


 by Unicef-USA



The lives of 1,000,000 children are at risk right now in the Sahel region in West and Central Africa. Crops have failed. Families have nothing to eat.

We can save them if we act now. Sound the alarm. Share this video. http://youtu.be/zRg9izN6T3s




We can rush food, nutrition and other emergency relief to help children in the region, but we need your help. We have to alert the world about this looming crisis. We need your help to sound the alarm.




Make sure you’re following http://www.facebook.com/UNICEF-USA and http://twitter.com/unicefusa

Friday, April 5, 2013

Malnutrition aigüe : dépister encore et toujours plus

Par Eric Alain Ategbo, Nutrition Manager, UNICEF Niamey, NIGER

 
 
L’intensification d’un dépistage bien conduit constitue une étape essentielle pour le traitement réussi d’un enfant souffrant de malnutrition aigüe. Passif ou actif, le dépistage peut se faire en formation sanitaire ou au niveau communautaire.
 
Quelque soit la forme qu’elle prend, les acteurs au Niger sont fortement encouragés à intensifier la recherche des cas de malnutrition aigüe et leur référence afin d’assurer une prise en charge effective de la malnutrition au Niger.

Face à la récurrence des crises nutritionnelles auxquelles le Niger est confronté depuis des années, le pays avec l’aide de ses partenaires a mis en place un système de prise en charge de la malnutrition pour les enfants âgés de 6 – 59 mois. Ce système, dont la construction a débuté lors de la crise alimentaire et nutritionnelle de 2005, se renforce de jour en jour, et comporte deux grandes catégories. La prise en charge des cas de malnutrition aigüe modérée d’une part et d’autre part, la prise en charge de la malnutrition aigüe sévère, elle-même subdivisée en deux sous catégories, la prise en charge en ambulatoire des cas de malnutrition aigüe sévère sans complication médicale et le traitement en hospitalisation pour les cas de malnutrition aigüe sévère avec des complications médicales associées.
 
A ce jour, il existe plus de 2000 centres de prise en charge de la malnutrition aigüe au Niger dont 893 destinés au traitement des cas de malnutrition aigüe sévère. De même, plus de 1100 centres sont dédiés à la prise en charge des cas de malnutrition aigüe modérée.
 
Dépistage de la malnutrition au Centre de Santé de Routgouna
dans la ville de Mirriah, Niger (Olivier Asselin / Niger / Unicef)
 
De quelques dizaines de milliers de cas traités par an pendant la période 2005 - 2009, la capacité de prise en charge de la malnutrition aigüe au Niger a rapidement augmenté, pour atteindre plusieurs centaines de milliers de cas traités par an depuis la crise nutritionnelle de 2010. Ainsi, près d’un million d’enfants ont été traités contre la malnutrition aigüe sévère au Niger entre 2010 et 2012 (330.000 en 2010, 299.000 en 2011 et 369.000 environ en 2012). La prise en charge de la malnutrition aigüe modérée a atteint sa vitesse de croisière en 2011 avec en moyenne 460.000 cas traités chaque année.
 
Il importe d’assurer le maintien de ce système qui a fait ses preuves et d’assurer un accès équitable à tous les enfants touchés par la malnutrition. Une identification active et précoce, et une référence effective des cas identifiés vers les centres de prise en charge constituent une chance pour chaque enfant de survivre à la malnutrition aigüe ; cette maladie ayant une forte corrélation avec la mortalité.
Pour que l’effort de dépistage soit bénéfique aussi bien aux enfants qu’au système de santé, il est impératif d’assurer une bonne coordination avec le service de prise en charge dans la localité concernée et de mettre en exergue les cas identifiés qui sont déjà dans le programme de prise en charge, lors de la restitution des résultats.
 
Pour plus d'informations visitez http://www.unicef.org/wcaro/
 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mauritanie : 18 jours pour sauver Saada, 16 mois


Par la Croix Rouge Française / ECHO


 
Dans la région mauritanienne du Gorgol, près de la frontière sénégalaise, 13% des enfants de moins de cinq ans souffrent de malnutrition aigüe. Depuis 2007, ECHO finance la Croix Rouge Française et la Croix Rouge Mauritanienne afin d’appuyer le système de santé pour une meilleure prise en charge des cas de malnutrition. 10 500 enfants et ceux qui les accompagnent reçoivent une assistance à travers ce programme. Ici, nous suivons Saada Diallo et sa mère Fatimata qui ont bénéficié de ce programme.

 
 

 

Mauritania: 18 days to save Saada, 16 months


In the Mauritanian region of Gorgol, close to the Senegalese border, 13% of children under five suffer from acute malnutrition. Since 2007, ECHO finances the French Red Cross and Mauritanian Red Crescent to support the health system in taking better care of malnutrition cases. 10,500 children and those accompanying them receive assistance via this programme. We follow Saada Diallo and his mother Fatimata through the course of the programme.

 
 
 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A mother waits in exile to return to her village in Mali


By Hugo Reichenberger / UNHCR / in Mentao Camp, Burkina Faso


Aicha is suffering: she is far from her home in the central Malian district of Mopti and she has caught a pulmonary infection, which is compounded by the harmattan, the dusty trade wind that sweeps from the Sahara to the Atlantic coast from November to March.

The 45-year-old and her four children arrived in Mentao Refugee Camp in north-west Burkina Faso less than two weeks after the start on January 11 of the French military intervention in Mali to push back anti-government militants. At first, the fast-evolving situation in Mali raised hopes that many displaced people would be able to go back to their homes soon. But the reality is that thousands have since fled to neighbouring countries – mainly Burkina Faso and Mauritania – to escape the fighting or from fear of reprisals. They need help.

In Burkina Faso, many of those who have fled across the border are ethnic Tuareg and Arab women and children, like Aicha and her young. Their menfolk are staying behind to take care of their cattle, indicating that people are increasingly fleeing out of desperation. New arrivals are met at the border by mobile teams from UNHCR or its partners, and transported to Mentao or Goudebou refugee camps, where they receive assistance, such as hot meals upon arrival and traditional shelter kits, and are individually registered. More than 6,000 have arrived since the French intervention in January.

Aicha's journey to Mentao was not so straightforward. She had resisted earlier chances to flee from her central Mali village, Boni, despite the deteriorating social and economic situation. She felt she had too much to lose.
 
© UNHCR/H.Reichenberger
Aicha (in green) shelters from the sun with relatives in their shelter in Mentao Camp, Burkina Faso.
 
"We are simple people, all we have is our animals and our friends, nothing else, nothing more," Aicha said of her life. But over the past year, things became even harder as war engulfed the country and rebels took over the north and much of the centre of the country. "Our worst fears have now become reality. We left our animals and our friends. We feel we have only fear, no more life," she said, explaining her situation.

The developments in Mali last year took thousands of farming folk like Aicha and her husband by surprise, although inequality between the sub-Saharan people of the south and the Tuareg and Arabs of the north had led to separatist conflict in 1990 and 2007. Most of Aicha's Arab relatives fled to Burkina Faso or Mauritania soon after the fighting first erupted between government soldiers and Tuareg rebels in January last year.

The victorious Tuareg rebels were followed by militants, who imposed strict Islamic law in areas under their control in the north and centre, including Boni. Aicha was not used to such an austere lifestyle, such as having to wear a veil. "Life was difficult in 2012, but it was bearable," she noted. "I would wake up and prepare food for my children before they went out to look after our livestock. I would spend time with my friends when my husband went to Boni to sell some animals. It was correct."

In January, the fighting swung back to the region as the French-backed Malian army advanced north against the militants. Aicha could hear the sounds of war rumbling closer and decided she must flee to save her children. Other villagers were thinking the same and the men clubbed together to hire a truck to take their wives and children to nearby northern Burkina Faso and then on to Mentao, a camp of 11,000 located about 80 kilometres from the border. Some of the villagers of Boni already had relatives there.

But instead of taking them to Mentao, the drivers duped the group of 20 women and children, leaving them at a village 60kms short of their destination after a long and uncomfortable journey without food and water. Luckily, the locals took pity on the refugees and took them by donkey to Mentao.

In response to the spike in new arrivals, UNHCR staff based in the nearby town of Djibo opened a transit centre where refugees stay for two days in newly erected tents (for up to 500 people) before being moved to the camps. More latrines and bathing facilities were built in the transit centre to cope with the extra population.

Aicha and her group, after being stopped by police near Mentao, were taken by UNHCR protection staff to this transit centre, where they were interviewed and registered. "This is a particularly important time for those in categories regarded as most vulnerable, such as female-headed households, said UNHCR Protection Officer Euphrasie Oubda. "They can tell us about things like health problems and trauma and then we can give them the proper care," either directly or through humanitarian aid partners.

Aicha was then moved to Mentao Camp and her own space, where she receives regular visits from UNHCR community services staff. After a week there she felt safe but missed home. There is a small silver living: her four children will go to school for the first time.

"My oldest son, who is 10, has never been to school: he has been a shepherd most of his life," she told visitors. "Although life in Mentao has been better than I thought, life as a refugee is still not a correct life such as the one I had back home," she added, poignantly.
 
For more go to www.unhcr.org