Burkina Faso: inadequate and insufficient support for 46,000 Malian refugees

Ouagadougou/London, 23 April 2012 – Humanitarian support for the 46,000 Malians having taken refuge in Burkina Faso since mid-January is inadequate and insufficient, MSF is saying today.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are providing emergency medical aid in refugee camps in Oudalan Province, in the north of the country. More than three quarters of these refugees have ended up in this desert area where aid is very limited and where needs outstrip resources.  

Clashes between Tuareg rebels and the army in northern Mali have driven over a quarter of a million people to flee into Mali’s interior and neighbouring countries. In Burkina Faso, now home to the second-largest number of Malian refugees after Mauritania. providing aid is difficult, and more refugees arrive daily.

Refugees have settled in four camps in the north of Deou district, in the province of Oudalan, and have been living for weeks in makeshift shelters and in poor conditions. They have little food and must wait for hours in oppressive heat for a few litres of water. “We left everything when we fled our country,” says Fatima, a refugee in the Ferrerio camp. I am with my children. We have nothing. We’re living in the open here.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plans to group the refugees together on a new site that is unsuitable and where there are no water points or shade. Nearly three months after the clashes began and despite the massive influx of people, food is still limited. “The World Food Program was slow to respond and the aid it is providing is neither sufficient nor appropriate to the refugees’ dietary practices,” says Jean Hereu, MSF’s head of mission in Burkina Faso.

MSF has been doing food and water distributions, providing support to health posts, and doing mobile clinics in and around the camps since the first one was formalised in early February. Teams have done more than 1,600 medical visits in four weeks, treating respiratory and skin infections and gastric illnesses that are characteristic of a lack of hygiene and access to water.

This is severely testing Burkina Faso’s hospitality,” Hereu says. The area where the refugees have settled has been hard hit by the lack of rainfall, which affects the cereal harvest and has a direct impact on household food security.”

MSF is providing care for free to the refugees and local people and will continue to adjust its medical response to meet needs there.

MSF is also providing aid to Malian refugees in Mauritania and Niger.  The organisation is working in northern Mali (Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal and Mopti), where the teams provide primary medical care to populations displaced by fighting.