UNHCR calls for «greater solidarity» with displaced people in Mali and the region in the wake of recent attacks

File – Residents of Koygouma in Timbuktu draw water from a well in Mali. – NICOLAS REMENE / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOPHOTO

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called on Tuesday to strengthen support for people displaced by the latest attacks in Mali, shaken for years by the operations of various jihadist groups, and called for «greater solidarity» with these people.

The organization’s representative in Mali, Mohamed Touré, stressed that «violence and threats from armed groups have forced Malians and refugees to flee for safety». Among the latest cases is that of the town of N’Tillit (north), where more than 3,700 Burkinabe refugees and Malian residents have had to flee to Gao, 120 kilometers away.

«The current threat in N’Tillit, where Burkinabe refugees had found refuge for the past few years after fleeing Burkina Faso, has displaced them for the second or third time, causing even greater trauma,» he explained.

Thus, he argued that «since 208, Burkinabe refugees have been forced to cross the border into Mali, despite the precarious situation in both countries». Mali hosts more than 60,000 refugees, including 25,000 from Burkina Faso, while 440,000 Malians remain displaced in the country.

«The number of arrivals in Gao could continue to increase while the rest of the population of N’Tillit fears reprisals after several ultimatums by an armed group,» warned Touré, who stressed that most of the displaced are women and children who walked for hours without food.

In this sense, he pointed out that these displaced people «are now living under trees or in makeshift shelters with little food and water». «Pregnant and lactating women with children, the elderly, people with disabilities and unaccompanied children are in urgent need of health care,» he said.

He stressed that «UNHCR and its partners are supporting local authorities in assessing and responding to the needs of forcibly displaced families in Gao,» while coordinating a humanitarian response for refugees and internally displaced persons throughout the African country.

«Despite these efforts, the needs of the displaced remain enormous as violence by armed groups continues to force the population to flee,» said Touré, who called on the international community «to show greater solidarity with the displaced in Mali and neighboring countries through urgent financial support to humanitarian organizations to provide vital assistance».

Mali, like other Sahel countries, has been registering in recent years an increasing number of jihadist attacks by both Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the region and the Islamic State, which has also increased inter-communal violence and caused the displacement of tens of thousands of people.