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CAFOD concerned by the prospect of war

Source:  Catholic Agency for Overseas Development
Country:  Niger (the), Mali

We are deeply concerned that military intervention in Mali could cause a major humanitarian crisis.

Earlier this year, Aminata Mohamed and her twin daughters were forced to flee from their village in northern Mali. “We feared violence by the rebels,” she says. “They robbed our villages, threatening the inhabitants and spreading terror among women.”

Aminata is one of more than 300,000 people who have been forced from their homes by a rebellion in Mali by a loose coalition of Islamist groups. The Malian government, already reeling from a military coup, has struggled to respond.

Today, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is proposing to take military action against the rebels, supported in principle by the Malian government, the United Nations and by other countries including France and the United States.

We are deeply concerned that military intervention could force thousands more people like Aminata from their homes. Mali and other countries in the region are in the midst of a serious food crisis – and war could make a fragile situation even worse.

Earlier this year, CAFOD’s Michel Monginda Mondengele led a team to villages in Niger where Malian refugees were seeking sanctuary. He says:

“The conditions that the refugees were living in were very, very bad – the worst I’ve seen in Niger. People were living in the open air, exposed to the sandy wind blowing around. They were on the edge of a desert: there were no trees, no shrubs, nothing around that they could use to help them build shelter.

“Most of them had been forced to leave in a hurry, so they hadn’t been able to bring anything with them. The Nigerien villagers were doing their best to help, but the refugees desperately needed food, water, medicine and basic goods like pots, pans and blankets.

“Military intervention in Mali could force thousands more people to cross the border into Niger. The region they’d be arriving in is already suffering badly from the food crisis – and the rains failed there again this year, which is likely to mean another very poor harvest. It’s also an extremely tough area for humanitarian agencies to reach, because of the difficult security situation.

“All parties involved in planning the military intervention should think hard about the devastating impact it could have on civilians. The situation for Malian refugees in Niger is already precarious, and if thousands more people cross the border, the needs will be overwhelming.”

Thanks to your support, we’ve been working with our partner CADEV-Niger to provide food, healthcare and emergency supplies like tents, jerrycans, blankets and pots and pans to thousands of Malian refugees in Niger. Despite the challenges, we are ready to scale up our response if necessary.

Nick Harrop
Writer: Emergencies and Fundraising
CAFOD | 020 7095 5479

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