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Aid continues as refugees flood over borders in Sahel

Azahara shelters herself and her three children from the sun with just a simple cloth.
Azahara shelters herself and her three children from the sun with just a simple cloth.
May 7, 2012

Plan’s response to the Sahel food and refugee crisis is continuing as political instability in Mali sends a surge of refugees into neighboring countries.

Almost 200,000 Malian refugees have now sought shelter over the borders, some with herd animals, causing additional pressure on already poor communities’ food supplies, pastures and infrastructure.

Plan has been distributing free food to targeted groups in villages and schools, filling up 25 cereal banks and offering nutritional advice to communities. We are also providing food support, cereal grains, vegetables, mosquito nets and blankets to villagers and refugees.

More than 3000 refugees had arrived in April in the village of Goudel, five kilometers from the Malian border and a place normally inhabited by 850 people. Village chief Ashek Hammed says the increase in numbers means the food shortage is desperate – but local tradition means all newcomers will be fed.

“If you have a stranger who stays with you, you have to share your meals with him,” explains Hammed. “Consequently there is pressure because the food shortage is more pronounced. I’m very worried about the future. Not because of the actual situation, but because every day, people keep on coming.”

Every day, refugees who have walked for 10 to 15 days arrive in Goudel. One hundred percent of the children are malnourished, and many have illnesses such as whooping cough. Refugee Azahara Naziou came across the Malian border in April and is now living in a tent with 12 members of her family.

“I left my village because I was frightened. Bandits came with guns and stole many of our things, so we decided to run away. I came on foot with my children. Since we came here, we have been supported with food. So I have been eating millet, beans and rice. We have been assisted with food, with blankets, with containers to carry water and with tents.”

Plan has furnished the school with extra blackboards, seating mats and teaching guides to accommodate greater numbers. Teacher Adouramane Oumarou says one entire class is made up of refugee children, who have never been to school before.

“Before the arrival of the refugees, we had 134 pupils; now we have taken in 117 refugee children. We wish that the school continues to do well, above all with the support of our partner Plan Niger.”

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