20,000 seek safety from violence of army and rebels Following violent clashes in Mali, nearly 20,000 people have taken refuge in northern Burkina Faso. In Mentao camp, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff are distributing water and food and assessing basic healthcare needs. Since mid-January 2012, nearly 20,000 Malians have sought refuge in Burkina Faso after fleeing fighting between the Malian army and Tuareg rebels. Most of the refugees are in the provinces of Oudalan, Seno and Soum, in the north of the country.
Mentao camp near Djibo is hosting 3,000 people, up from 1,000 people three weeks ago. "There has been a significant increase in the refugee population, and we are expecting to have 5,000 to 10,000 people in this camp in the coming weeks," says Jean Hereu, MSF’s head of mission inBurkina Faso. In Mentao camp, MSF is distributing 50,000 litres of water per day. The teams are also providing food, with an initial supply of five tonnes of rice, red beans and oil, and will continue to do so until the World Food Programme starts its emergency response. In the coming days, the teams will make a joint assessment with the Ministry of Health ofBurkina Faso to assess the medical needs of the refugees.
A backdrop of food insecurity The refugees include a number of nomadic people who have sought refuge next to a tributary of the Niger River so their livestock will have access to water. But many of the refugees are used to a more settled life, and now find themselves without resources, leaving them extremely vulnerable. "During our initial assessment, the health situation was not critical. But, to stay healthy, refugee populations need continued access to water, food and medical care. We must be vigilant because the situation could deteriorate quickly," says MSF logistician Daho Moussa. A lack of rainfall in 2011 has had adverse effects on crops, pastures and water levels in dams. The influx of so many people, along with their livestock, may create tensions between communities and destabilize an already precarious situation. On top of this, food insecurity in the region is likely to put at risk the health of both refugees and local people. In addition to Mentao camp, the authorities have formalized a second site in Férélio, in Oudalan province, to host the Malian refugees in the far north of Burkina Faso. An MSF team visited the second camp on March 7 to assess the situation.