UNHCR aid to countries receiving people fleeing clashes in northern Mali

Briefing Notes, 10 February 2012

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 10 February 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is stepping up its response to the Mali crisis with aid shipments by air and road to neighbouring countries for thousands of people fleeing clashes between Tuareg rebels and the Malian army. The first of four scheduled cargo flights landed in Nema, Mauritania today at 07:18 am local time with 300 tents.

UNHCR has initially purchased 1,200 tents for Mauritania, another 2,000 for Niger and 500 for Burkina Faso. These will be flown from our stockpiles in Cameroon and Ghana to address the critical shelter needs in influx areas. Trucks will also be transporting basic relief items such as sleeping mats, blankets, jerrycans, mosquito nets, kitchen sets. Two trucks carrying 40 tons of aid are currently on the way from Accra to Niger where they are due to arrive by the middle of next week

Meanwhile, at Mauritania's Fassala border crossing with Mali, the Mauritanian authorities and UNHCR are working around the clock to provide the refugees with food, clean water and shelter. UNHCR has already sent several convoys of food and aid items, with distribution of a 15-day food ration being carried out by the local authorities.

Most of the 10,887 Malian refugees in Mauritania are Tuareg, many of whom are fleeing from nearby Léré. The Mauritanian authorities have identified a potential camp site in M'Bera, 50km from the border, and plan with UNHCR to move the refugees to the new location. The same site had hosted around 30,000 Malian refugees in the 1990s when there were also clashes between Tuareg rebels and the Malian army.

In Niger, yesterday, our emergency team interviewed a group of Malian refugees in Sinegodar area some 278 km, northeast of the capital Niamey. Refugees told us that their hometown in Anderamboukane is now empty. They say that the population fled from the Malian border town following a 26 January attack by rebels targeting homes, looting, poisoning water points, burning personal property and businesses and taking away animals.

They all said that they want to go back as soon as peace is restored. In the interim, they would like to travel back to salvage whatever is left of their personal property and animals that may have survived the attacks and looting.

In Burkina Faso, UNHCR has released aid from its local stocks to be distributed to Malian refugees as well host communities in the arid northern region of the country. An estimated 8,000 people have crossed into Burkina Faso from Mali, of whom 6,000 are in the north.

Since the start of the Tuareg insurgency in northern Mali on 17 January, an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 people have crossed to seek safety mainly in neighboring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. Not all are refugees or asylum seekers. With Niger, for example, some of those returning are Niger nationals.

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