You Never Have Too Little to Share
As the Malian conflict enters its third week, those whose lives have been shattered by the combats are still struggling to cope with the situation. In Ségou, things have been tough for many of the internally displaced for whom survival has become a daily challenge.
In a large compound on the outskirts of Ségou, two shadows are discernible in the shade of a mango tree, curled up, almost invisible. Aissata is laying down on the sandy ground with her little boy Bouba by her side.
She tries to find a comfortable position. However, without a mattress, mat, or even a cloth underneath her frail body, it looks impossible to achieve.
She looks weak and pale and Bouba does not look better either.
“She has been unwell for quite some time and the journey from Diabaly to Ségou has made her even worse,” husband Ali, a tall middle aged man, said in a broken voice.
Aissata and her family of five arrived in Ségou in mid-January, fleeing the unrest in their hometown of Diabaly. It took them ten hours to make the 100-mile drive to Ségou.
Half of the journey was made on an old donkey cart.
“As the cart went along the bumpy road, I could see that Assata’s condition was deteriorating. I was so worried she wouldn’t make it,” Ali said.
She got a quick health check from Dr. Unni Krishnan, a medical doctor who leads the Disaster and Preparedness Response team at Plan International.
He said that Aissata and Bouba were severely dehydrated and underweight.
The Stuggle to Make Ends Meet
Ali is even more worried about his wife and child because he doesn’t have the money to provide food and medical assistance for them. “I sold everything,” he said.
After arriving penniless in Ségou, his family made the difficult decision to separate. He, Aissata, and Bouba were taken in by a cousin while the other three children were sent to live with another relative.
Internally displaced people (IDPs) continue to travel from the war-torn cities and villages in northern Mali to Ségou.
“The influx has slowed down a bit. A tiny minority of the IDPs decided to go back home,” said Sadou Maiga, head of Coren, a north Malian Non-Governmental Organization operating in Ségou.
He believes that the lack of lines at the bus stations is a mixed blessing.
“Life is not easy for the IDPs. Many of them are really struggling to make ends meet. On my visits home, I am always confronted with tough situations. I think many people outside of Ségou don’t understand the crisis that is developing here because life in Ségou appears to be normal and the bus stations seem pretty quiet.”
Plan Delivers Aid to IDPs in Mali
Dr. Krishnan has been a part of emergency relief efforts in more than 60 countries. He believes that the IDP situation in Mali is unique because IDP camps have not been established. Furthermore, 31,000 IDPs have sought refuge in thousands of homes across many towns and villages.
Now that Plan International has obtained a security clearance to enter the affected areas, they are preparing to deliver aid to 50,000 people. This includes both IDPs and host families who live in seven towns in Ségou, including Diabaly.
Making Sacrifices for Family
Ali, Aissata and Bouba were taken in by Abah. Even though he worries about having enough food to feed everyone living in his household, he willingly opened his home to his extended family. He has even provided them with a room in one of the two gray brick houses in his compound. It should be noted that Ali’s family is not the only group to seek refuge at his home. Abah has also welcomed an additional 20 family members since the beginning of the crisis.
“I am always happy to welcome family members in my home and provide for them. That is what family and friends are for,” he said.
However, this local butcher has been feeling the pinch over the last few months.
“My household has been spending around $10 dollars each day which is double our budget. I had to take out several loans from my friends so that I could afford to feed everyone. I am crippled with debt and I don’t know how and when I’ll be able to repay them,” Abah said.
He and his wife have been forced to cut back on their daily meals.
“Sometimes my children complain that they are hungry, but there is nothing my wife and I can do about it.”
Far from being bitter about the situation, Abah wants to set a good example for his six children and he believes that good things will arise from his actions.
“Family matters,” he often tells them. “You never have too little to share with others.”
Please visit our Disaster Relief and Recovery page to learn how you can help us deliver aid to families in crisis.