UNHCR seeks $17.6 million for its Mali and Niger repatriation programmes
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Friday appealed for $17.6 million to finance the repatriation and reintegration of refugees returning to Mali and Niger.
In the early 1990s, some 150,000 people, mostly ethnic Tuaregs and Moors had fled an armed conflict in Mali and found refuge in Mauritania, Algeria, Niger and Burkina Faso.
During roughly the same period, political turmoil and subsequent armed rebellion in northern Niger, led to the exodus of some 15,000 to 20,000 people who fled to Algeria and Burkina Faso.
The 1992 Mali Peace Agreement put an end to the armed rebellion, allowing a gradual normalisation of the situation in the country.
In Niger, the rebellion in the north ended in April of 1995 when the government signed an agreement with the rebels.
By March of 1997, some 100,000 Mali refugees had gone back, be it spontaneously or with UNHCR assistance. A large majority of those who returned to Mali after June of 1996 travelled in convoys organised by UNHCR. The last convoy taking Mali refugees back home is scheduled to leave the M'Berra camp in Mauritania next week. The camp site will be closed by the end of June.
Over 60,000 Mali refugees, however, still remain in Burkina Faso, Niger, Algeria, and Mauritania. UNHCR is in urgent need of funds to be able to repatriate them and above all to be able to assist in the reintegration of those refugees who have already returned.
UNHCR's programmes in Mali's return areas include water purification and irrigation, delivery of humanitarian aid, as well as income generation projects and micro-projects in agriculture and livestock production.
In Niger, UNHCR will support the return of over 10,000 Niger refugees, currently residing in Algeria and Burkina Faso.
In June of 1996, UNHCR originally asked for $12.7 million for the Mali/Niger programme but the appeal figure has been since revised upwards to ensure the financing of a number of cost-intensive reintegration projects. So far UNHCR has received a mere $1.3 million. To avoid an interruption of the programme, UNHCR has resorted to transferring $3 million from its emergency fund to the Mali/Niger operation.
The main projects financed by the $17.6 million sought by UNHCR include a $3 million drinking water supply project - vital in the arid Saharan region. A further $3.9 million has been earmarked for logistics. $1.1 million has been designated for income generation projects. Other projects include preservation of the natural environment as well as important agricultural and medical programmes.