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Funding shortfall affects refugee response

Families in the M'bera camp near Mauritania's border with Mali complain they do not get their share of food
Family in the M'bera camp near Mauritania's border with Mali (Jul 2012) (Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN)

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says it is “woefully underfunded” to help Malians fleeing fighting who have sought refuge across the border in Mauritania’s M’bera camp, and other neighbouring countries.

UNHCR has received only 20 percent of the US$153.7 million it asked for to help more than 380,000 Malians who have fled to the neighbouring countries of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, Guinea and Togo, spokesperson Sybella Wilkes told IRIN. More than 90,000 refugees are sheltering in M’bera, which has now become a contender for Mauritania’s second largest town.

Mauritania shares its longest border with Mali, where the situation remains very unstable, with the northern region under the control of a fractious coalition of Islamists and Tuareg separatists since April. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is reportedly preparing a fresh request for military intervention in Mali to the UN Security Council.

Wilkes highlighted the urgent need for funding. “Time is crucial, given the food crisis in the Sahel region, the rainy season, the menace of cholera and the instability in Mali,” she said. A cholera outbreak in the region has killed more than 60 people, and although rains in Mauritania are expected late this year, aid agencies are concerned.

According to UNHCR, the nutrition status of Malian refugees in Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger is “satisfactory”, and at a “level comparable to the host populations. But for both the host populations and the refugees, there is a threat of worsening acute malnutrition over the coming months due to food shortages and the rainy season.

“A lethal combination of the rainy season and poor sanitary conditions in many of these camps risks outbreaks of cholera and other diseases,” said a UNHCR release. “Cases of cholera have been reported in a camp in Niger. Funds are needed to improve the basic infrastructure of these camps, with a priority being increased numbers of latrines and improved water provision.”

M’bera is short of more than 2,000 latrines, which are being constructed on site by UNHCR with the help of partners Solidarités International and Intermon Oxfam (Spain), but the camp will still be short of 1,500 latrines at the end of August.

Adolf Bushiri Lukale, the Humanitarian Action Programme Manager at Intermon Oxfam, said they did not have enough money, and getting construction materials across the sandy terrain in the Sahara was extremely difficult.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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