IDP News Alert, 20 February 2012
Mali: Tens of thousands displaced by fighting in Northern Mali
According to the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC) on 8 February, around 30,000 people have been internally displaced by fighting between a secessionist groups and the army in northern Mali, with 26,000 fleeing from the town of Menaka and 4,000 from Aguelhoc. ICRC is still estimating the number of IDPs in Tessalit in Kidal region, and Léré and Niafunké in Timbuktu region, where fighting also took place which may have displaced a further 20,000 people. At least 20,000 people have fled into neighbouring Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Guinea.
Some IDPs have been taken in by host families in safer areas but many others had to set up makeshift camps outside villages or find shelter in the bush in order to flee the violent fighting around the towns. Others reportedly fled south to Bamako and Mopti regions.
The situation of IDPs is critical, especially for the people scattered in rural areas who have extremely limited access to basic necessities such as food, water and medical care. Certain areas in Kidal and Gao regions are becoming less and less accessible for Malian authorities and NGOs, putting IDPs sheltering there in an even more dire situation. Because of the growing insecurity, Médecins du Monde (MdM) suspended its operations in northern Mali in early February.
Background: Clashes between Tuareg members of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) armed group and the Malian army have displaced thousands in northern Mali since mid-January. The NMLA, which is seeking independence for an area of northern Mali, was formed in late 2011 after former Tuareg fighters in the Libyan army returned to Mali with heavy arms. After independence from France in 1960, Mali has witnessed several different Tuareg-based rebellions. This latest outbreak of violence has taken place against a backdrop of continuing drought in the Sahel region and worsening food insecurity. According to MdM, a reduction in commerce between Kidal and Gao regions and areas across the border with Algeria has aggravated food shortages. Presidential elections due to take place in Mali in late April could make the environment more volatile and also raise questions as to the participation of IDPs. Mali has signed the Au Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs in Africa but has not ratified it.
See also: IDMC’s new Mali country page
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Somalia: New displacement and increasing humanitarian and protection concerns
According to the BBC, on 15 February Somali government forces and their African Union allies launched an offensive on Afgooye town near Mogadishu to flush out Al-Shabaab fighters. The town is home to the biggest concentration of IDPs in Somalia, with an estimated 400,000 people living in shanty dwellings. The shelling of the town forced IDPs who had sought refuge in Afgoye since 2007 to flee back to Mogadishu, fearing for their lives.
Fighting also reportedly broke out on 8 February in the north between forces of the self-proclaimed Republic of Somaliland and clan militias loyal to the newly-created Khatumo State, which is on a disputed area between Somaliland and the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland. An estimated 6,000 people took refuge in nearby villages; the IDPs are in urgent need of shelter and food assistance.
Meanwhile, growing insecurity in South Galkayo in central Somalia has forced aid agencies to withdraw, with serious implications for an estimated 60,000 IDPs who are facing shortages of food, shelter and medical help. IDPs in camps in Somaliland are also facing growing threats to their safety and integrity, due to an increase in the number of rape cases and domestic violence incidents.
See also: IDMC Somalia country page
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