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2014 UNHCR country operations profile - Mali

| Overview |

Working environment

  • Mali has been in political, constitutional and military crisis since January 2012, which in turn created a refugee outflow into Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and to a lesser degree, Algeria and other countries. The crisis was aggravated by the loss of central government control of northern territories (Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal) from April 2012 until January 2013. During this period (2012 and 2013) the refugee outflow continued and the situation also created forced internal displacement.

  • The international military intervention in January 2013 and the deployment of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in July 2013 have brought signs of improvement in the overall situation in the country, particularly in the north. Nevertheless, insecurity will remain a considerable challenge in Mali.

  • In 2014, UNHCR anticipates positive developments in Mali following the democratic election of a new President in July 2013. This is expected to foster voluntary returns of refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs).

  • With the exception of Kidal, where a high level of insecurity remains, UNHCR has started expanding its presence in Gao. This will enable greater access to people of concern in return areas and monitoring of population movements at the borders.

  • In 2013, more than 300,000 internally displaced civilians were sheltering with host communities in the southern part of the country, mainly in Bamako. The displaced are dispersed across arid areas where they suffer from periodic food insecurity, fuelling tensions among the various communities. In 2014, one of UNHCR's main challenges in Mali will be to address the constraints of this socio-economic environment with limited livelihood opportunities.

  • The Government of Mali grants access for refugees in the country to public schools and health centres and provides land, water, firewood and other natural resources.

People of concern

The main groups of people of concern planned for in 2014 under the Mali operation are IDPs and IDP returnees who have been fleeing insecurity in northern Mali since 2012; Malian returnees who sought refuge in neighbouring countries in 2012; and Mauritanian refugees who fled ethnic conflicts in 1989.

Planning figures

UNHCR 2014 planning figures for Mali
TYPE OF POPULATION ORIGIN Dec 2013 Dec 2014 Dec 2015
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total 244,160 74,160 188,600 98,600 119,250 87,250
Refugees Côte d'Ivoire 1,370 1,370 1,200 1,200 800 800
Mauritania 12,440 12,440 7,000 7,000 3,000 3,000
Various 290 290 350 350 400 400
Asylum-seekers Various 60 60 50 50 50 50
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-refugees) Mali - - 15,000 15,000 50,000 50,000
Internally displaced Mali 165,000 35,000 65,000 25,000 10,000 3,000
Returnee arrivals during year (ex-IDPs) Mali 65,000 25,000 100,000 50,000 55,000 30,000

| Response |

Needs and strategies

UNHCR will continue to protect refugees in both urban and rural areas, and will assist them to become more resilient. For Mauritanian refugees, advocacy with the Governments of both countries of origin and of asylum to find lasting solutions will continue. The Office will also further strengthen refugees' self-reliance opportunities to facilitate their socio-economic local integration.

In respect of IDPs, UNHCR will continue to lead the protection and shelter and non-food items (NFI) clusters to coordinate assistance focused on protection, life-saving activities and the provision of basic services. Protection monitoring will be increased in places of displacement as well as in refugee returnee areas.

In line with the UN Secretary-General's Policy Committee Decision on Durable Solutions, UNHCR will assume the leadership role for establishing and implementing the return strategy in close cooperation with the Government and other stakeholders. To back up the reintegration of returnees, the Office will support community-based and peaceful coexistence interventions and provide technical assistance to the Government during the return of refugees and IDPs. On the basis of assessment activities in return areas, UNHCR and its partners will provide tailor-made shelter and NFI assistance to returning families.

Combating sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) will be a priority for UNHCR in 2014. Refugees, returnees and IDPs will benefit from legal assistance, counselling and psychological activities.

| Implementation |


In 2014, UNHCR will continue to work with the Malian authorities on refugee protection, in particular in the area of documentation and local integration.

The Office will continue to advocate for the voluntary repatriation of Mauritanian refugees.

With regard to IDPs, UNHCR will maintain its lead role in the protection and shelter/ NFI clusters.

Through participation in the Humanitarian Country Team, UNHCR will coordinate all assistance-related activities and foster inter-agency cooperation in areas related to the return of refugees and IDPs, including collaboration with MINUSMA on the protection of civilian and human rights.

Regional coordination mechanisms will be established among UNHCR offices and its partners in countries of asylum to ensure a coherent and effective strategy for the return of Malian refugees in a safe and dignified manner.

2014 UNHCR partners in Mali
Implementing partners
Government agencies: Commission nationale chargée des réfugiés (CNCR)
NGOs: Association des anciens volontaires des Nations-Unies, Association des juristes maliens, Association malienne pour le suivi et l'orientation des pratiques traditionnelles, Danish Refugee Council, Groupe de recherche d'étude, de formation, Femme-Action, International Medical Corps, International, Emergency and Development Aid, INTERSOS, Norwegian Refugee Council, STOP SAHEL: Association Malienne pour la Protection de l'Environnement
Operational partners
Government agencies: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Humanitarian Action, Ministry of Interior and Territorial Administration, Ministry of Justice

| Financial information |

Following the Mali emergency, UNHCR's operation in the country has grown significantly. The 2014 financial requirements for Mali are set at USD 59.8 million, with more than USD 10 million allocated to the refugee programme, including returnees, and some USD 49 million for the protection and assistance of IDPs.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Mali [1]
Refugees [2] 14,316
Asylum Seekers [3] 293
Returned Refugees [4] 14,281
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 254,822
Returned IDPs [6] 42,253
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 325,965
Originating from Mali [1]
Refugees [2] 152,864
Asylum Seekers [3] 6,541
Returned Refugees [4] 14,281
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 254,822
Returned IDPs [6] 42,253
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 470,761

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Malian refugees flee for safety to Niger

Thousands of Malian families have arrived in Niger since mid-January, fleeing fighting between a rebel Tuareg movement and Malian government forces in northern Mali. Refugees are living in makeshift settlements along the border, exposed to the sun and wind by day, and cold at night. UNHCR has started distributing relief assistance and is planning to open camps in safer areas further away from the border. UNHCR's Helene Caux met with some the refugees who all expressed their desire to return to their country once peace prevails.

Malian refugees flee for safety to Niger

Malians still fleeing to Niger

Malian refugees continue to arrive in Niger, fleeing fighting and general insecurity and political instability in their country. At the Mangaizé refugee site in northern Niger, some 3,000 refugees live in difficult conditions, bearing soaring temperatures during the day and wondering when they will be able to return home. The scarce water and food resources in the arid Sahel country also present a huge challenge for the refugees and local communities. More than 40,000 Malians have found refuge in Niger since January, when fighting erupted between a rebel Tuareg movement and Malian government forces. More than 160,000 Malians have arrived in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, while 133,000 are displaced within their country. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Niger, including Mangaizé, in early May with World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin to help focus world attention on the crisis and to seek help for the displaced.

Malians still fleeing to Niger

Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks met with Malian refugees in Damba Camp on July 6, 2012, in northern Burkina Faso. The acclaimed soprano is using the visit to highlight the plight of tens of thousands of refugees who have fled from conflict in their country this year and are living in camps or settlements in neighbouring countries. As of early July, more than 198,000 Malians had fled to Mauritania (88,825), Burkina Faso (65,009) and Niger (44,987). At least 160,000 were estimated to be displaced within Mali, most in the north.

Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Harsh life for Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Some 3,900 Malian refugees are living in Damba camp in northern Burkina Faso. They left their homes in Gossi and Gao in northern Mali to escape fighting between rebel Tuareg movement and the Malian army as well as threats posed by criminal gangs and Islamist groups. Several families have recently arrived in the camp, worried that an attack on Gao in June will spill over to other towns. Life is harsh in the camp and UNHCR urgently needs fresh funds to ensure life-saving assistance for this silent humanitarian crisis.

More than 380,000 Malians have been forced to flee their homes this year. Over 65,000 of them have found refuge in Burkina Faso. And this comes at a time when the countries in the Sahel region are suffering from drought and food shortfalls.

Harsh life for Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres travelled to northern Burkina Faso with the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BRPM), Anne Richard. In Damba camp, they met with Malian refugees who had fled northern Mali in the past six months to escape the ongoing conflict and political instability. To date, more than 250,000 Malian refugees have fled their homes and found refuge in neighbouring countries, including 107,000 in Burkina Faso alone. The UN refugee agency has only received one-third of the US$153 million it needs to provide life-saving assistance such as shelter, water, sanitation, health services, nutrition and protection to the refugees. UNHCR fears that the volatile political and humanitarian situation in Mali could lead to further outflows to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

A Snapshot of Life for the Displaced in Mali's Capital, Bamako

Almost a year after fighting erupted in northern Mali between government troops and a Tuareg rebel movement, almost 200,000 people are internally displaced in Mali. Most have fled to areas in the south of the county, including Segou, Mopti, Kayes and the capital, Bamako, where some 47,000 people have found refuge. They come mainly from the Timbuktu and Gao regions, which are now under the control of Islamic extremist groups.

Many of the displaced have been victims of human rights abuses at the hands of the armed groups and Islamicextremists operating in the north. Women and girls have been raped, men have had limbs amputated, people have been tortured or murdered. In Bamako, many of the survivors of abuse are in urgent need of medical and psychological assistance. In addition, the internally displaced in urban areas struggle to make ends meet, buy food, pay their rent and secure employment. The children often go to school on an empty stomach in the morning. The international community, including UNHCR and its partners, urgently need funding to help the most vulnerable displaced people in Mali. The following images depict daily life in Bamako for internally displaced people.

A Snapshot of Life for the Displaced in Mali's Capital, Bamako

Enormous Challenges Faced by Mali's Urban Displaced

Over the past year, the conflict in northern Mali has forced more than 228,000 people to seek refuge in other parts of the country - including some 51,000 who have fled to Bamako, the capital. Without the support networks and other resources they left behind, internally displaced Malians face enormous challenges. High rents in Bamako, for example, compel many of the uprooted to seek shelter in crowded apartments far from the city centre. Limited access to health care, clean water and education makes their situation even more precarious.

Finding work is also incredibly difficult in a new environment where job opportunities typically come through personal or family connections. And so, in suburban neighbourhoods like Sangarébougou, farmers and animal herders now sit idly in unfamiliar apartments, and teachers struggle to find new posts even though local schools are overcrowded.

Hopes of returning home soared in recent weeks as French troops drove the separatists out of population centres like Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. Yet northern Mali is still far from safe and secure. Until it is, many displaced Malians will struggle on in Bamako.

Enormous Challenges Faced by Mali's Urban Displaced

Mali: Caution prevails as displaced families contemplate return home

While the situation in the north of Mali remains volatile, some displaced families have decided to return to their homes. After using public transportation to reach Mopti, they set off by boat on a two-day journey in order to reach Timbuktu. The majority of those displaced say they will wait to see how the security and humanitarian situation evolves before returning to their homes. The conflict in northern Mali has forced 241,000 people to flee their homes for safer locations elsewhere in the country.

Mali: Caution prevails as displaced families contemplate return home

The Long Road Home: A Family's Return to Timbuktu

War came to Timbuktu last April, when ethnic Tuareg rebels seized the ancient city in northern Mali from government control. It soon fell under the control of militants, who started imposing a strict version of sharia law on the inhabitants. Women were forced to wear veils in public, adulterers were whipped or stoned, thieves had their hands amputated and centuries-old burial chambers were destroyed.

Thousands of people fled from Timbuktu and many sought shelter to the south in the Malian capital, Bamako. Fatima Nialy, a mother of four, joined the flow heading south because she felt like a prisoner in her own house in Timbuktu. In Bamako, she and her children - including a one-month-old son - were taken in by relatives, using a room in her older brother's home.

In February 2013, not long after French and Malian forces liberated Timbuktu, Fatima decided to return home with her children. Photographer Thomas Martinez followed them.

The Long Road Home: A Family's Return to Timbuktu

The Most Important Thing – Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso

"The Most Important Thing" documents - in words and pictures - some of the tough decisions people face when they have to flee their home. With support from UNHCR, American photographer Brian Sokol began the project in South Sudan, taking portraits of Sudanese refugees carrying the most valuable possession they brought with them into exile. He also asked them to explain their decision. Sokol continued with Syrian refugees in Iraq and in this photo essay looks at Malians in refugee camps in neighbouring Burkina Faso. While the photographs may reveal a fair amount about the subjects, it is their words - their stories - that share far more.

For the Sudanese, the most important things were primarily objects to keep them alive during their long, difficult journey: a pot, an axe, a water jug or a basket. For Syrians, the objects were largely sentimental: an old ring, a torn photograph, the key to a door that may no longer exist. Among the Malians depicted in this photo gallery, the objects largely had to do with their cultural identity. They spoke of how the items helped them to still feel part of their people, despite being forced into exile.

The Most Important Thing – Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso

Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

The process of relocating refugees from one site to a safer one is full of challenges. In Burkina Faso, the UN refugee agency has been working with partner organizations and the government to move thousands of Malian refugee families away from border sites like Damba to a safer camp some 100 kilometres to the south. Working under hot and harsh conditions, the aid workers had to dismantle shelters and help people load their belongings onto trucks for the journey. The new site at Mentao is also much easier to access with emergency assistance, including shelter, food, health care and education. These images, taken by photographer Brian Sokol, follow the journey made by Agade Ag Mohammed, a 71-year-old nomad, and his family from Damba to Mentao in March. They fled their home in Gao province last year to escape the violence in Mali, including a massacre that left two of his sons, a brother and five nephews dead. As of mid-April 2013 there were more than 173,000 Malian refugees in neighbouring countries. Within the arid West African nation there are an estimated 260,000 internally displaced people.

Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

Malian refugees in Niger struggle to rebuild their lives

Some 60,000 Malian civilians have found refuge in Niger this year, fleeing fighting in northern Mali as well as political instability in the whole country. Most are hosted in three official camps - Tabareybarey, Mangaize and Abala. A significant number are living in spontaneous settlements. All are located in harsh arid countryside where life is tough despite the assistance provided by UNHCR and other aid agencies.

Children are the most vulnerable group, with some suffering from acute malnutrition. Older children are looking forward to resuming their education in a foreign land. Meanwhile, some 6,000 refugees are living in the Niger capital, Niamey, where many of them look for work so that they can send money back to relatives still in Mali.

Meanwhile, the future remains uncertain. Many people fear that continuing fighting inside Mali could lead to an accelerated exodus of refugees from Mali into neighbouring countries, including Niger.

The following photographs by UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux depict life for the refugees in Tabareybarey and Mangaize camps as well as in Niamey.

Malian refugees in Niger struggle to rebuild their lives

International Women's Day 2013

Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.

On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.

These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.

International Women's Day 2013

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

The UN refugee agency has just renewed its appeal for funds to help meet the needs of tens of thousands of Malian refugees and almost 300,000 internally displaced people. The funding UNHCR is seeking is needed, among other things, for the provision of supplementary and therapeutic food and delivery of health care, including for those suffering from malnutrition. This is one of UNHCR's main concerns in the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania, which hosts more than 70,000 Malians. A survey on nutrition conducted last January in the camp found that more than 13 per cent of refugee children aged under five suffer from acute malnutrition and more than 41 per cent from chronic malnutrition. Several measures have been taken to treat and prevent malnutrition, including distribution of nutritional supplements to babies and 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. Additional funding is needed to improve the prevention and response mechanisms. UNHCR appealed last year for US$144 million for its Mali crisis operations in 2013, but has received only 32 per cent to date. The most urgent needs are food, shelter, sanitation, health care and education.

The photographs in this set were taken by Bechir Malum.

UNHCR and Partners Tackle Malnutrition in Mauritania Camp

Mauritania: Mali Elections In Mauritania Play video

Mauritania: Mali Elections In Mauritania

Hundreds of Malian refugees voted in exile at the weekend in the presidential election in their home country, way down on the numbers eligible to cast a ballot.

Mali: Going Back Home Play video

Mali: Going Back Home

A trickle of displaced Malians undertake the journey back to their towns and villages.
Mali: Waiting to ReturnPlay video

Mali: Waiting to Return

After spending months in the central Mali town of Mopti, hundreds of displaced families are anxious to go back to their homes in the north. But security is still a concern.
Mali: Giving Help Play video

Mali: Giving Help

While thousands wait to be able to return to northern Mali , aid agencies continue helping the displaced.
Mali: Displaced in MoptiPlay video

Mali: Displaced in Mopti

Malians who fled Timbuktu, fearing the battle between incoming forces and opposition rebels try to make ends meet in Mopti.
Mali: Displaced in BamakoPlay video

Mali: Displaced in Bamako

As French and Malian troops extend their control over Mali and push back rebel fighters, many of the tens of thousands of people who sought shelter in the capital, Bamako, are thinking of going home.
Burkina Faso: Water CaravansPlay video

Burkina Faso: Water Caravans

In Burkina Faso's arid Sahel region, UNHCR trucks are shuttling desperately needed water supplies to Malian refugees.
Burkina Faso: Moving to SafetyPlay video

Burkina Faso: Moving to Safety

Malian refugees in Burkina Faso's Fererio camp are moved further away from the border with Mali to ensure their safety.
Mali: Mopti ArrivalsPlay video

Mali: Mopti Arrivals

Tens of thousands of internally displaced people have found shelter in and around the central Mali town of Mopti. Many benefitted from a recent aid distribution.
Three Conflicts - Three CrisesPlay video

Three Conflicts - Three Crises

UNHCR says a multitude of new refugee crises in Africa and the Middle East are stretching its capacity to respond.
Mauritania: Learning in the DesertPlay video

Mauritania: Learning in the Desert

UNHCR works to give children access to education while they are living in exile.
Burkina Faso: A Harsh ExilePlay video

Burkina Faso: A Harsh Exile

107,000 Malians have arrived in this small West African country since January. They have abandoned everything to escape the conflict in northern Mali and now must survive in refugee camps in Burkina Faso.
Niger: Flight from MaliPlay video

Niger: Flight from Mali

Since the troubles began in their country last January, more the 40,000 Malians have taken refuge in Niger.
Mali: Fleeing the NorthPlay video

Mali: Fleeing the North

Fighting since March between Malian government forces and Tuareg rebels in northern Mali has sent thousands fleeing south to find safety.
Niger: Escaping the Conflict in Mali Play video

Niger: Escaping the Conflict in Mali

Hundreds of families have crossed the border from Mali into Niger to escape the fighting in the northern part of the country.