A Mother From Mali Dreams Of Bringing Her Family Home

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After fleeing her home in Mali, Dizawahet, 23, is about to give birth to her third child at a refugee camp in Burkina Faso. That’s where she was born as well during another conflict in Mali that drove her parents across the same border. Dizawahet says she’s grateful for the help families like hers receive at the camp, but that what she really wants is to go home.

MALI MOTHER 03 2013MENTAO (BURKINA FASO) — Dizawahet Mohamed’s life has come full circle. She was born 23 years ago in a refugee camp in Burkina Faso, where her family had escaped a civil war that raged in Mali from 1990-1995.

Now, nine-months pregnant, she has fled conflict in her homeland and is once again living in a refugee camp, about to give birth to her third child.

Today, she stands in the hot sun waiting for relatives to help her return to her shelter with her monthly food ration from WFP – cereal, lentils, salt, vegetable oil and a highly nutritious blend of corn and soya powder. She says she’s grateful for the assistance, but what she really wants is to return home.

“We’ve always lived in difficult conditions. We are used to that. But before, we lived in freedom – that’s the most important thing. I love my country and I want to return.”

Twice a refugee

Dizawahet is part of a nomadic Tuareg community who herd their animals in traditional grazing lands about 30 km from Timbuktu in Mali.

8 Things To Know About Hunger In Mali

1. The food security and nutrition situation in northern Mali has deteriorated significantly following a conflict in the northern part of the county which has forced some 335,000 people from their homes while making it difficult to reach those who stayed behind with assistance.

2. Over 80 percent of families in Mali live on what they can grow on small plots of land prone to droughts, flooding and locusts. Without irrigation and modern farming methods, they are at the mercy of a changing climate.

3. Around 15 percent of children in Mali suffered from acute malnutrition, even before the crisis. More than one fifth of school-aged children do not attend school. Three quarters of them are girls.

4. Some 69 percent of Mali’s population lives below the national poverty line. That’s one reason it’s ranked 175 out of 187 countries on the UNDP Human Development Index.

5. WFP expects to assist around one million people this year in Mali. A little over half are families affected by the conflict, while the rest are people in the southern part of the country receiving nutritional support for their families while they work on community-building projects.

6. WFP has been using small boats to send food up the Niger River to cities like Timbuktu and Gao in northern Mali. Since the beginning of the crisis, enough food has been sent this way to feed around 68,000 people for a month. Road transport is difficult and dangerous, but a WFP convoy has been able to cross the border from Niger carrying food for 6,500 school children in Gao.

7. In addition to providing food to families displaced by the fighting, WFP will also begin giving them cash, which they can use to buy fresh meat and vegetables. That will give them the flexibility to choose what foods to buy while giving a much needed boost to the local economy.

8. WFP Ambassadors Amadou and Mariam are both from Mali. The pop duo first met at the Institute for the Young Blind in Bamako where they started performing together, before going on to become stars on the world music scene. They became ambassadors in 2010 with a visit to quake-stricken Haiti where they filmed the video for the single “Labendela” about the fight against hunger.

Six months ago, the conflict in Mali prompted them to flee. Dizawahet’s husband took her and their two children across the border to the area where she was born. He then returned to Mali to care for their animals – and she has not seen or heard from him since.

Now she lives among about 16,000 Malian refugees living in five camps around the town of Mentao in Burkina Faso.

SAHELDespite good rains across much of the Sahel this year, 1.4 million children are expected to be malnourished – up from one million in 2012, according to the 2013 Sahel regional strategy. (..) But humanitarians worry of donor fatigue and many are concerned possible military intervention in Mali will distract donors from the chronic food insecurity and malnutrition crises in the region. (..) Alain Cordeil, head of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Mauritania, voiced his fears.

If we only have political interest from donors for refugees, we will not solve the problems for this region…This could be very chaotic,” he told IRIN.

In all, there are about 171,000 Malian refugees currently sheltering in Burkina Faso (47,000), Niger (50,000) and Mauritania (74,000).

And inside Mali there are a further 270,000 internally displaced people — most of them depending on food assistance from WFP and its partners.

Crisis far from over

WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin CousinWrapping up a four-day visit to the epicentre of the food crisis sweeping the Sahel region of West Africa, two top United Nations humanitarian officials Monday urged the world to meet its commitments, both financial as well as political, to help those in need. READ MORE

This month, WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin met with women at Dizawahet’s camp in Burkina Faso, as well as visiting internally displaced people inside Mali, pledging to continue the support for as long as it is needed.

“We continue to need support from the international community to ensure that we have adequate resources to meet the needs of the children and the families we are serving here, who still cannot go home,” she said.

World Food Programme

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