Nouakchott/London, 19 April 2012 – Since late January, some 57,000 Malian refugees have arrived at Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania. Numbers of refugees are increasing, from 200 arrivals daily two weeks ago (5 April) to 1,500 two days ago. In response, Médecins SansFrontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is stepping up its work in this area, where access to medical care is extremely limited.
Fighting between the Malian army, the Tuareg movement and other armed groups is forcing thousands to flee to Fassala, Mauritania, 3 kilometers from the Malian border. “The presence of armed groups and political uncertainty in Mali is generating fear and panic among the people,” says Elisabetta Maria Faga, MSF’s field coordinator. The refugees are primarily Tuareg families from the Timbuktu region. “They arrive here exhausted after a two-day journey by truck.” After arriving in Fassala, refugees are transferred to Mbera camp.
At Mbera, a six hour drive from the nearest hospital in Nema, MSF is providing primary and maternal healthcare to refugees and caring for malnourished children. Teams are also supporting local health posts. “A great number of people are suffering from respiratory infections anddiarrhoea due to a lack of access to water, exposure to extreme temperatures and frequent sand storms,” says Jean-Paul Jemmy, MSF’s medical coordinator.
As the number of refugees grows, so does pressure on humanitarian agencies to improve living conditions in the camp. There are currently 100 latrines for 57,000 refugees and only nine litres of water per person per day. These conditions are below humanitarian standards, which call for 20litres of water per person per day, and one latrine for every 20 people.
“We are still expecting several thousand refugees in the coming weeks. With this constant influx of refugees, we have to act quickly and efficiently to provide emergency services; we must provide sufficient shelter, water and sanitary facilities and reinforce overall emergency medical assistance,” said Jean-Paul Jemmy.