New York, US (PANA) - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has deployed its workers to assist some 20,000 people forced to flee fighting between government troops and
rebel Tuareg groups in Mali.
In a statement, made available to PANA in New York, it said that, ``most of those uprooted by the violence in the Azawad region of northern Mali that began in mid-January have fled to Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania''.
The agency also disclosed that, ``fighting between the Tuareg liberation movement (MNLA) and government forces resumed on 17 January, breaking a 2009 agreement that officially ended the Tuareg rebellion''.
It noted that, ``in the past three weeks, at least 10,000 people are reported to have crossed to
Niger, 9,000 to Mauritania and 3,000 to Burkina Faso''.
``Some of those who crossed into Niger have settled very close to the volatile border, and many of the new arrivals are sleeping in the open and have little access to shelter, clean water, health services and food.
``While most of those who recently fled Mali are Malians, recent arrivals in Niger also include
nationals of Niger who had been living in Mali for decades. Many have been crossing the border between the two countries regularly to find grazing land for their cattle,'' it stated.
The statement also said that UNHCR was planning to send aid to 10,000 people from its
stockpiles in the region, as well as additional staff to assist the displaced.
Meanwhile, the agency’s office in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, has reported the arrival of some 3,000 Malian Tuaregs following attacks on their homes and businesses in the Malian capital, Bamako, and in the nearby town of Kati last week.
It said: ``Many of the new arrivals are staying with host families in Ouagadougou and
Bobo Dioulasso, 320 kilometres south-west of the capital, while other new arrivals have been
reported in the north-west of the country''.
It also added that, ``an inter-agency mission, including UNHCR, is scheduled to go there by the end of the week to assess the needs of the people''.
``In addition, UNHCR has sent several missions to the Hodh el Chargi region of Mauritania,
where over 9,000 people arrived since 25 January. The mainly ethnic Tuareg Malian refugees
come from the region of Lere on the other side of the border,'' the statement noted.
It further said the new arrivals told UNHCR that they fled fighting between government forces
and rebel Tuareg fighters, and feared retaliation by army troops.
``The Mauritanian authorities, with UNHCR’s help, are taking care of the new arrivals, whose key needs include food, shelter and other basic items. The agency plans to field an emergency support team to boost its presence in the country.''
-0- PANA AA/VAO 7Feb2012