Military clashes in Mali spark population displacement, including across borders

Briefing Notes, 15 January 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 15 January 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.


CORRECTION (22 January 2013): In this briefing note we reported that 2013 funding needs were $195.6 million. This is incorrect. The correct figure is $111.9 million.


Clashes over the weekend between the Malian Army, supported by France, and Al-Qaida linked Islamist groups in the Konna, Lere, and Gao areas of northern central Mali, have resulted in new population displacement both within Mali, and into neighbouring countries.

In Niger, UNHCR teams are reporting that 450 refugees arrived on January 11th and 12th in the west of the country at Mangaize camp (north of Ouallam), Banibangou and Tillabery towns as well as in the Tillia area. Refugees are telling us they fled the on-going military intervention, the absence of subsistence opportunities and basic services, and the imposition of Sharia Law.

In Burkina Faso, 309 persons have arrived in camps in the north and northeast (including in Damba and Mentao camps), as well as in Bobo Dioulasso.

In Mauritania, 471 Malian refugees are reported to have arrived at the Fassala reception center near the Malian border. They will later be transported further away from the border to the Mbera camp which is already hosting some 54,000 Malian refugees who were displaced in 2012. Ninety percent of the new arrivals are women and children, from the Lere area in Mali. UNHCR has updated its contingency planning in case of new major potential influxes to neighbouring countries and new displacements in Mali, and we are ready to respond with assistance as needed.

Inside Mali, details on the displacement situation are less clear. According to our partner, the Commission on Populations Movements in Mali and based on mixed reliability information sources [Note: UNHCR will be updating numbers as more reliable information becomes available] 648 people arrived in Bamako from the north between January 10 and 13, 360 arrived in Segou, and 226 arrived in Mopti from the Timbuktu region. To the north of Mopti at Konna around 5000 people (equivalent to half the Konna population) are reported to have fled the town across the River Niger, and are staying among the local community. In Mopti itself the situation is said to have calmed. Currently, access to new areas of displacement in the north remains impossible because of the security situation. A number of residents of Mopti and the nearby town of Sevare fled last week to Bamako via Segou (which itself has been hosting some 30,000 internally displaced persons).

In Bamako, which is itself host to some 50,000 IDPs, many IDPs are struggling to make ends meet. UNHCR staff recently spoke to displaced families who are struggling to pay their monthly rents. Many families live in small rooms in bad conditions with no electricity or direct access to water. They generally lack space to accommodate all family members. The needs for money, food and shelter are huge. We are in the process of working with partners on income-generating activities to help the situation.

Meanwhile we are continuing to assist those refugees who are camps in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania by providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene structures, healthcare and education. In Burkina Faso, we have relocated close to 5,000 Malian refugees from Ferrerio and Gandafabou sites, close to the Mali border, to a safer camp at Goudebou, which is located further inland near the city of Dori. An additional 13,500 refugees should be relocated in the next weeks from sites at the border area to safer camps. In Niger, we are continuing "level 2" registration of individual refugees to improve reliability of data and information on needs.

UNHCR remains short of funds for the Mali crisis with only 63 percent ($US77.4 million) received of the $US123 million sought for helping refugees and internally displaced people in 2012. For 2013, UNHCR anticipates needs at a further $195.6 million.

The number of Malian refugees in the region, as of end 2012, was 144,500, with some 54,100 in Mauritania, 50,000 in Niger, 38,800 in Burkina Faso, 1,500 in Algeria. Small groups are also in Guinea and Togo (26 and 20 respectively). The internally displaced population inside Mali (including people displaced last year, and those newly displaced in the past week) is estimated by Mali's Commission on Population Movements at 228,918 principally in Bamako, Segou, Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso and Mopti.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dakar (Regional): Helene Caux on mobile +221 77 333 12 91
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20
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