By Helen Blakesley and Caritas Internationalis staff
American Caritas member Catholic Relief Services, Caritas Niger (SECADEV) and its partners are mobilising emergency water, hygiene and sanitation facilities to meet the urgent needs of thousands of Malian refugees in neighbouring Niger.
Fighting in northern Mali between the army and a rebel group has forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes. Nearly half have stayed in Mali, and the others have crossed borders seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
According to the United Nations, around 25,000 people have crossed into Niger since the end of January—two-thirds of them Malian refugees and a third, Nigeriens. An estimated 500 people are arriving every day.
Most of the refugees are living in open-air shelters made of blankets stretched over sticks. They face extreme temperatures—the heat of the day and then cold at night—in the Sahelien desert zone.
Many came on foot, leaving behind most of their belongings. Some refugees say that they lost contact with their older children as they fled. They don’t know where they are and have no way of contacting them. Continue reading