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.
Since last month’s chemical weapons attack, Syria has chased the coup and chaos in Egypt off the front pages. Nevertheless, both crises continue to shake the social and political foundation of the Middle East. This has been true, on and off, since early 2011. But now the two countries’ crises are converging in a worrying new trend: the flow of Syrian refugees into – and then out of – Egypt.
My colleague, Mark Yarnell, and I were recently in Mogadishu, Somalia. Anyone visiting Mogadishu can see the new construction and other evidence of money flowing back into this city, which was devastated by years of conflict. As Mark and I drove around, we also saw the downside of these changes. Many sites where internally displaced people (IDPs) were living a year ago had since been cleared by private landowners and the government.
I have just completed a five day trip to Mogadishu where my colleague, Garrett Bradford, and I visited camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). There are more than 300,000 IDPs living in makeshift shelters in camps spread across the Somali capital. Some camps, like the one near the dilapidated Parliament building, are teeming with thousands of families. Others consist of just a few dozen people living on private, undeveloped housing lots.
More than 100,000 people are now living in displacement camps in northern Myanmar, driven from their homes by conflict between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). While about a third of these individuals are living in government-controlled areas, the vast majority are located in zones controlled by the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), the KIA’s political wing.
In recent weeks, stories from the unfolding crisis in Jonglei State, South Sudan, have started reaching Western newspapers. More than 100,000 people are estimated to be displaced, trapped in soon-to-be malaria-infested swamps beyond the reach of aid agencies. The government of South Sudan has denied access to the displaced and wounded, leading to fears that the situation in this severely food-insecure state could rapidly deteriorate into a full-scale humanitarian emergency.
As Hassan shuffled around the room with my camera in hand, snapping photos of his cousin Juhanah, his grandmother told the story of how their extended family came to share this simple concrete dwelling in southern Turkey. Like the stories of many other Syrian families taking refuge in neighboring countries, hers was one of trauma, loss, and uncertainty.