SPIRALLING conflict in Mali could stop refugees from returning home for several decades – warns children’s charity Plan International.
More than a quarter of a million Malians have fled to neighbouring countries since radical Islamists and rebels seized key towns in the north of the country.
“The crisis is extremely complex and is causing an intensive ripple effect across the region,” says Berenger Berehoudougou, Disaster Risk Manager for Plan in West Africa.
“Unfortunately experience shows us that people can linger as refugees for decades, unable to return to their countries because of factors like lack of security, feared persecution and absence of jobs.”
The West African Group of Leaders, ECOWAS, is seeking UN approval to send a 3000-strong military force to the north of Mali.
The area is becoming increasingly insecure – with reports of violent clashes, recruitment of child soldiers and hundreds of thousands of people facing a serious food crisis.
“After the Touareg rebellion in Niger and Mali in the early 1990s, refugees remained in some neighbouring countries for up to 8 years - and during the war in Liberia some refugees were forced to stay outside its borders for 14 years.”
“The current emergency is on a different scale so we fear it could take a lot longer before refugees can go back to Mali.”
Alongside distributing emergency supplies in neighbouring countries, Plan is working to protect refugee children from abuse and help them back into education.
In Burkina Faso, Plan is running primary and pre-school classes for 1000 young Malian refugees in Mentao and Damba refugee camps.
Specialist psychologists are also at hand to support children through games and other activities.
“Teachers are mostly refugees and residents of the camps – they are being supported with training by Plan to ensure they have the tools needed to fully implement the new curriculum in Burkina Faso,” explains Berenger Berehoudougou.
“Plan believes that no matter where children are located – small remote villages or refugee camps – the education they receive stays with them throughout their lives, and helps them become self-sufficient and ready for their future.”
For more information on Plan’s work or to make a donation call 0800 526 848 or visit www.plan-uk.org
Media Relations Officer
Plan UK | www.plan-uk.org
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Notes to editors
1) Plan is a global children’s charity. We work with children in the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future. A future you would want for all children, your family and friends. For over 70 years we’ve been taking action and standing up for every child’s right to fulfill their potential by:
· giving children a healthy start in life, including access to safe drinking water
· securing the education of girls and boys
· working with communities to prepare for and survive disasters
· inspiring children to take a lead in decisions that affect their lives
· enabling families to earn a living and plan for their children’s future.
We do what’s needed, where it’s needed most. We do what you would do. With your support children, families and entire communities have the power to move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.
2) Plan UK is a member of The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella organisation for 14 leading humanitarian aid agencies.
3) We work with children in 50 of the world’s poorest countries to help them build a better future.
4) Plan was founded by British journalist John Langdon-Davies in 1937 to rescue orphans and other vulnerable children from the Spanish Civil War.
6) We have over 100,000 sponsors in the UK, generating £24 million a year, and 1 million sponsored children worldwide
7) Sponsorship starts at £15-a-month and, rather than going to individual children and their families, funds projects to improve schooling, health, nutrition and livelihoods across communities.