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IOM, Partners Relocate Displaced Malians from Niger's South-western Border

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, March 20, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM, in partnership with the Government of Niger and UNHCR, has relocated more than 500 vulnerable Malian families from insanitary and overcrowded makeshift settlements in and around the south-western border village of Sinegodar to a safe site away from the volatile border region.

The operation, which was launched on 17 March, has so far succeeded in relocating 2,114 individuals from Sinegodar to Abala, some 80 kilometres to the south.

"Some of the Malians in Sinegodar have told IOM they are reluctant to be relocated further south since they hope to return home to Mali as soon as security conditions permit," says Abibatou Wane, IOM's Chief of Mission in Niger.

"Apart from security considerations, this relocation is essential to alleviate the pressure on local populations living in food insecure areas and villages such as Sinegodar, which simply cannot meet the needs of so many newly arrived people," she adds.

Prior to departure, IOM staff registered the departing families and ensured that everyone was fit to travel. It also provided water and high energy biscuits. IOM medics were on hand to assist vulnerable people with special needs.

Some 28,000 people, including at least 4,500 Niger nationals, have crossed the border into Niger to escape fighting in northern Mali between government forces and fighters from the Mouvement National de Libération de l'Azawad (MNLA.)

IOM is now working with international and local partners to continue the registration of Malians who are scattered across inhospitable desert border areas and to organize their relocation further south.

Despite the assistance provided by humanitarian agencies, living conditions in the border area continue to be difficult for Malians and the local population alike. According to Niger's Early Warning System (SAP), more than six million Nigeriens are in need of food aid.

"A combination of drought, insecurity and population inflows from neighbouring Mali and Libya has further aggravated the situation in a region which is already facing severe food shortages and malnutrition. To cope with increased food prices and shortages, families are now having one meal a day. Others have sold whatever they had and migrated to urban areas in search of jobs," says Wane.