21 February 2014 | Julia Blocher
IDP voices: Hawoye, displaced from Mopti region, Mali
A new brief released yesterday by IDMC voiced concern for the tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) and their host communities in Mali’s south. The briefing paper particularly highlights the growing needs faced by these people, including health issues, schooling, and personal documentation. IDMC’s Julia Blocher visited IDPs in Mali’s south to find out more.
Hawoye, 40, is a mother of five who was forced to flee attacks by armed groups in her hometown of Kona, in the Mopti region of Mali. She fled with her family to Ségou. ‘The saddest part about being displaced is knowing my children are suffering,’ she told me.
IDMC’s latest brief on Mali indicates that the existing health needs of IDPs have been compounded by the trauma of flight and poor living conditions in their places of displacement. The situation of Hawoye’s 21-year-old daughter – who suffers from mental trauma resulting from the events she experienced during flight – unfortunately elucidates these challenges. This is best told in her own words. Watch this short clip:
Displaced children face barriers to education
While trauma and health issues are primary concerns, compounding this mother’s suffering is the fact that she cannot easily educate her other children. ‘Some are not doing well at school,’ she told me one Sunday afternoon, as her older children played nearby in the dusty, bustling neighbourhood just outside of Ségou.
According to IDMC’s recent briefing paper on the situation in the South, schooling is a commonly cited concern; displaced children have difficulty with a different curriculum than that which they followed before, or face barriers due to regional differences in language. School fees can also be a barrier. In many cases displaced parents have been unable to send all of their children to school, needing their help instead to work and support the family.
Commendably, southern schools in Mali have made efforts to accommodate displaced children, even for those who no longer have identity documents. Nevertheless, an absence of personal documentation can cause other problems for displaced families.
Only about 50% of Malian IDPs have personal identification. This makes it difficult to access assistance and services and further impedes socio-economic recovery. Many IDPs did not have time to take their identity documents and title deeds when they fled, and thus lack these papers during displacement. ‘We didn’t have time to take anything with us,’ says Hawoye, ‘we [just] took our children and the clothes on our backs.’
As we spoke on the thatched mat beneath a handmade canopy, two twin babies, barely two weeks old, quietly slept beside her. As children born in displacement, their future is unstable. A recent article by UNICEF reaffirms that registering children at birth is critical in order to acknowledge their identity and existence. Unfortunately for these twins – as well as many other displaced children in Mali – the cost of birth certificates was too great for the family to consider, costing around 5,000 CFA franc, equivalent to under eight euros. Indeed neither of these twin infants had birth certificates.
A mother’s lament
IDMCs latest brief asks on the government and its partners not to ignore the challenges for the nearly 100,000 people still displaced in the south. ‘My hopes and wishes for the future are that my children finish their education. I hope that my [21-year-old] daughter can recover and find peace.’
In order to realise the dreams of women like Hawoye – one of nearly 100,000 other people still displaced in the south – the international community must not put all its focus on rebuilding the north at the expense of the futures of those left behind in southern cities.
Disclaimer: Translation in the video clip is approximate.