Malian women who have come to Niger as refugees, attend a meeting in Tiguizefane, Abala district, Niger, held by CRS to ask about refugee and host community needs and to explain what’s going to be done. Catholic Relief Services and our partners are mobilizing emergency water, hygiene and sanitation facilities to meet the urgent needs of thousands of Malian refugees who have fled to safety in neighboring Niger since January 2012. Fighting in Northern Mali between the army and a rebel Touareg group (the National Movement for the Liberation of Azwad, MNLA) has forced more than a hundred thousand people to flee their homes. Around half have stayed in Mali, with the others crossing borders to seek refuge in neighboring countries. According to the UN, as of the end of Febuary 2012, around 25,000 people have crossed into Niger – two thirds of them Malian refugees and a third Nigeriens trying to get home. It’s estimated that another 500 people are arriving every day. Most of the refugees are living in the open air, in makeshift shelters made of blankets stretched over sticks. Their host communities have already been weakened by a looming food crisis which is affecting the Sahel region, after poor rains and a bad harvest last year. Water, hygiene and sanitation are urgent needs for the refugees and local communities and so CRS will drill boreholes, improve wells and water points. Fuel will be provided to keep water pumps working. Tanks brought in so people can store water. Latrines, showers and washing stations will be built, giving refugees their privacy back. A garbage disposal plan is being put in place and educational materials on sanitation will be given out. CRS will also be distributing around 2,000 hygiene kits to families – including buckets, soap and storage jugs.
Photo credit: Photo by Jean-Philippe Debus/Catholic Relief Services