The one thing that is on my mind these days is the current growing Malian refugee situation. It is hard to watch your fellow man suffer. However, it is harder still when you know they had little to begin with and now everything, including their dignity, is being stripped from them. These people did nothing to deserve the conditions they have been subjected to.
On June 10th, Yeah was a man on a mission. His mission was to truly investigate the conditions of the camp and the state of the refugees living in them, so that he could get the international community and the Malian government more involved.
Yeah went to visit the Malian refugees in Burkina Faso. UNHCR (High Commission for Refugees UN), reports 180,060 refugees displaced all over Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. 65009 refugees are in Burkina Faso as of June 9th 2012. Of these numbers, almost 60% are children. About 38% are aged 18-59 and about 3% are 60 and older. The situation in these camps is getting more and more desperate. The flow of aid is unable to match the need. Yeah went with Malian journalist Yaya Samaké (not a relative) to document the situation and hear firsthand what the refugees and officials concerned with the crisis were saying.
Yeah met with the officials at the Mali Embassy in Burkina Faso. Mali Ambassador to Burkina, Seydou Traoré, admitted that they had not been to visit the Malian refugees situated in Burkina Faso. They told Yeah that the Malian government had not given any aid to be delivered to the refugees. This seems amazing to me that one’s own government does not care two cents as to the plight of their own people. Yeah was the first Malian from Mali to have visited the refugees in Burkina. What is the use of an embassy in Burkina Faso if it does not even serve its people?
Yeah also had the opportunity to meet with the country’s head of UNHCR, Fata Courouma, to better understand the needs of the camp. Yeah visited the Mentao, Damba and Djibo camps which is in the Soum province, 250 km from Burkina’s capital of Ouagadougou. This area (as of May 18th 2012) according the UNHCR houses 14,506 individuals and 2,472 households.
The refugees in these areas hail mainly from the Tombouctou area. Also among the refugees there are people who have served in the armed forces of Mali. Conditions are getting worse because of the rainy season coming in. The tents available are inadequate to deal with the rainy season. The number one need right now is protection from the elements. Even though food is being served, the rations do not meet the nutritional requirement and are lower than what a person would eat on a daily basis. Children that are displaced are not receiving an education. There are limited health services provided by the UNHCR and the CR-BKF. There are no words to describe the situation in these camps. It is unbelievable that it has come to this and that nothing is being done to help these individuals.
These individuals were so happy that a fellow Malian had finally come to hear what was happening to them in these camps. They expressed their gratitude to the Burkina officials and were frustrated with the Malian government because no one had come to help them. To them, it seemed like they had been forgotten by their own government. Yeah said to them, “I am not come to you on behalf of the Malian government. I came to see you as a brother wounded at the situation as you live. Your suffering is our suffering. Your expectations are not met, not because the government does not have the will, but because the country is almost stopped. Let us all pray for the speedy return of peace, so you can find your homeland. We will always be by your side”. Yeah promised the camp leaders that he would do more to help them and raise awareness to the growing humanitarian situation.
Yeah met one camp representative by the name of Aghali Ag Hamidou , who is from the Tombouctou region and was teaching in Bamako when the fighting broke. He left his job in Bamako and returned to Burkina Faso to help his tribe in the refugee camp. Another camp leader Almahil Ag Almouwak of the South camp said “I prefer the Malian tree to another tree”. Despite the harsh conditions the refugees are under, he was quick to say that Mali will always be their home. They want to return home. He cautioned that not all Tuaregs are rebels and vice versa and cautioned the government to stop treating them as such.
Our Malian brothers and sisters still hold on to the hope that Mali will be reunited and that they will then be able to return home and live in peace. Speaking through Yeah, they call on the Malian authorities to step up to the plate and help them.
I am glad that Yeah took the opportunity to go see what the refugees have to deal with on a daily basis. The conditions are desperate and are worsening. Now I ask you, imagine not having enough to eat. Imagine being unable to sleep because your tent let water through or because you were simply too hungry. Imagine not knowing what to do with yourself all day, because there simply is nothing to do. Imagine being unable to take care of your family. Imagine a life where death seems preferable to suffering. Conditions are terrible for the Malian refugees and they are about to get worse as we approach the rainy seasons from July to September.
Donate today to organizations like UNHCR that are on the ground and trying to make a dent in the growing numbers with Operation Mali. Or donate to Samake2012 and specify refugee in the comments field and the funds will go towards the collection Yeah is making for the refugees.
Every little bit helps. Will you help today?