Mali Refugee Crisis

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Photo Credit: Assan Midal

Editor’s Note: While this site likes to look for the positive aspects of Africa that are overlooked by the media, there are also other situations, such as what is happening in Mali and surrounding areas, that are relatively ignored, as well.

I recently received an email with “Crisis in Mali” in the subject line and my first thought–though I hate to admit it–was, “What crisis in Mali?” Call me foolish, but I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one with that response. And that’s a problem.

Allow me to bring you up to speed…

On January 17, hostile conflict broke out between Tuareg rebels and the Malian government. By February 7, the UNHCR reported that more than 20,000 Malians had fled the country as a result of these violent clashes. And as of February 18, that number has more than doubled with over 44,000 people seeking refuge in the neighboring countries of Mauritania, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Latest reports from Reuters note over 120,000 people forced from their homes.

The UN and Red Cross are currently working to set up refugee camps and provide necessary supplies in Mali’s surrounding countries, but with approximately 20,000 Malians already across the border in both Mauritania and Niger and reports of a steady influx of refugees into other surrounding countries, demand for shelter and basic necessities is quickly becoming a concern. Making matters even worse, “Humanitarian assistance is all the more critical because the Sahel region is facing a severe food crisis due to several years of drought.” (UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming).

And this, my friends, is just the summarized version of what Amnesty International is describing as “the worst human rights crisis in northern Mali for 20 years.”

So what can you do?

Spread the word.

It sounds simple, but this is truly one of the most instrumental ways you can help provide aid to Mali. The crisis is receiving minimal coverage in the media and there has been little involvement from humanitarian organizations. But by spending just a few minutes a day spreading the word via social media networks like Twitter and Facebook, we can help bring attention to this situation. To make this all the more simple, here is are some sample tweet that you can directly copy and paste:

@UNRefugeeAgency mobilizes aid to 40K+ #Mali #refugees, but many are still suffering and fleeing. Urge others to support @hrw @ONECampaign

@ReliefIntl is raising funds to mobilize aid to the @MaliCrisis. Immense suffering and critical need. Donate here: http://bit.ly/Ai511a

Looking for more information?

MaliRefugeeCrisis.org is a site with news updates focused on the situation, you can find them on Twitter (@MaliCrisis) and join their Facebook group to talk to other concerned people. If you’d like a personal contact, you can e-mail help@malirefugeecrisis.org

Phil Paoletta of PhilInTheBlank.net is currently in Mali and has posted a to-do list of additional ways you can help during this crisis.

Visit Assan Midal’s page on Facebook. Assan is a member of the Malian tourism industry and frequently posts photos and updates about the crisis (such as the above).

The UNHCR website is also good resource for daily news updates on the Mali crisis.