As conflicts go, it was relatively short. An ethnic Tuareg rebellion that began in northern Mali in January 2012 spread like wildfire when armed Islamist groups linked to Al Qaeda usurped control. A military coup in March of last year further weakened the government’s ability to respond. Fabled Timbuktu and commercial Gao (two major cities in the North) were overrun by rebels, and their citizens suffered such acts of terror and atrocities that many still cannot speak about them. Others cannot sleep without being awakened by horrific dreams of those days.
This post originally appeared at UN Dispatch.
More than a year ago, families fled northern Mali in droves after insurgents there routed Malian forces. While some of those families became refugees in nearby countries, most simply fled to the country’s south.
In less than three years, the Syrian refugee population has become the largest in the world, surpassing the number of people who have been forced to flee longstanding conflicts such as those in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan.
It’s been over three years since the earthquake in Haiti devastated the capital Port-au-Prince, killing an estimated 230,000 people and leaving 1.2 million homeless.
In the two months since Mali elected a new president, cautious optimism has prevailed throughout the country. The French military intervention succeeded in driving out Al Qaeda-linked insurgents from the north and has paved the way for the central government to reestablish its authority throughout the country. The UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has begun the process of deploying peacekeepers, although the mission won’t be fully operational until the end of the year.
This post originally appeared at SahelNOW.
Mbera is the biggest refugee camp that you've never heard of. With a population of more than 70,000 refugees, Mbera is the sixth largest camp in the world. It is located in a remote area of Mauritania near the border with Mali, and since early 2012, a mix of Tuareg and Arab refugees from northern Mali have fled across the border into this highly arid region.
Despite forecasts indicating a good harvest this fall, millions of vulnerable people across West Africa’s Sahel region will not have enough food to eat again this year. Many are still reeling from 2011-12, when poor rains and high food prices left 18 million people without sufficient food and a million children at risk of starvation.
Since last month’s chemical weapons attack, Syria has chased the coup and chaos in Egypt off the front pages. Nevertheless, both crises continue to shake the social and political foundation of the Middle East. This has been true, on and off, since early 2011. But now the two countries’ crises are converging in a worrying new trend: the flow of Syrian refugees into – and then out of – Egypt.