I’m exhausted. And not because of the rapidly approaching holidays. No, I’m exhausted because my schedule is packed with a seemingly endless stream of high-level meetings, panel discussions, roundtables, photo exhibitions, protests, marches, and congressional hearings – all of them focused on raising awareness of gender-based violence in emergencies.
Amina hasn't had a full night of sleep in more than a year. Ever since she fled her home in northern Mali last fall, she has been haunted by terrifying memories of violence. When my colleagues from Refugees International and I visited her in the Malian capital, Bamako, she volunteered to share her story with me.
On October 11, a boat carrying roughly 400 displaced Malians returning to their homes in the north capsized on the Niger River. According to press reports, 72 people have been confirmed dead, many of them school children. This tragedy is a stark reminder of how difficult it will be to bring displaced Malians home again.
This post originally appeared on The Hill's Congress Blog.
Biba snaps her fingers to get my attention, struggling to be heard over the din of the crowd – all of them competing to share their story of how they came to Bamako. My colleagues from Refugees International and I turn to face her directly and the others quiet down.
As conflicts go, it was relatively short. An ethnic Tuareg rebellion that began in northern Mali in January 2012 spread like wildfire when armed Islamist groups linked to Al Qaeda usurped control. A military coup in March of last year further weakened the government’s ability to respond. Fabled Timbuktu and commercial Gao (two major cities in the North) were overrun by rebels, and their citizens suffered such acts of terror and atrocities that many still cannot speak about them. Others cannot sleep without being awakened by horrific dreams of those days.
This post originally appeared at UN Dispatch.
More than a year ago, families fled northern Mali in droves after insurgents there routed Malian forces. While some of those families became refugees in nearby countries, most simply fled to the country’s south.
In the two months since Mali elected a new president, cautious optimism has prevailed throughout the country. The French military intervention succeeded in driving out Al Qaeda-linked insurgents from the north and has paved the way for the central government to reestablish its authority throughout the country. The UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has begun the process of deploying peacekeepers, although the mission won’t be fully operational until the end of the year.
This post originally appeared at SahelNOW.
Mbera is the biggest refugee camp that you've never heard of. With a population of more than 70,000 refugees, Mbera is the sixth largest camp in the world. It is located in a remote area of Mauritania near the border with Mali, and since early 2012, a mix of Tuareg and Arab refugees from northern Mali have fled across the border into this highly arid region.
Despite forecasts indicating a good harvest this fall, millions of vulnerable people across West Africa’s Sahel region will not have enough food to eat again this year. Many are still reeling from 2011-12, when poor rains and high food prices left 18 million people without sufficient food and a million children at risk of starvation.