News24

UN calls for aid in 'overlooked' Mali emergency

2012-06-16 08:04

Geneva - The UN refugee agency launched an urgent cash appeal on Friday to help thousands uprooted by clashes in Mali, saying that the emergency there had been overlooked.

"This is now an emergency that is six months old and yet we have received only 13% of the funds [that are needed],” said spokesperson Andre Mahecic.

"The situation in Mali has been overlooked," he said.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it needs $153.7m to help 300 000 Malians displaced by conflict in the north of the country.

In the past four weeks about 20 000 Malians have crossed into neighbouring countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso, and more than 450 people are entering Mauritania every day.

Mahecic said the situation was already serious but could soon become "dramatic" because of a lack of water, with refugees forced to survive on just 10 litres of water a day - half the standard ration.

Wells are being dug by the agency but are drying up within three months, forcing the UNHCR into the costly alternative of trucking water to distant refugee camps.

The solution, Mahecic added, was to dig more boreholes which yield larger quantities of water, but the agency has neither the funds nor the equipment.

He also warned that the situation could deteriorate further owing to poor sanitation, especially as the rainy season is about to begin.

"There is a serious risk of diseases being spread," he said.

The current exodus is the result of ongoing fighting in Mali after a transition government took over power there from a junta which ousted the previous regime in March.