UPDATE 2/10/11: My host family from Timbuktu has made it to Mauritania. They are staying in the border town of Fassala. They are safe. The UNHCR has a camp there and the family reports that they have shelter and (limited) food. People continue to arrive in a steady stream. If anyone knows how to send targeted donations with UNHCR, please let me know. At the bottom of the post, I have also added two new organizations that are on the ground in northern Mali, Tamoudre and Association Etar.
Mariam, one of my star camel drawing students, is living in the desert with her family right now. They have abandoned their house in Timbuktu and will soon be traveling to Mauritania. I sent them a bit of money for the journey this morning. They were reluctant to send someone to pick it up from western union in town. They were reluctant because they fear for their safety.
I introduced the current conflict in northern Mali and the country-wide fallout in my last post. A lot has been written about the politics of this situation, but I want to focus on the humanitarian crisis that has quickly developed and overwhelmed whatever small capacity existed for refugees in neighboring countries. There are ways that you and I can help. But first..
Let’s be clear about a few things. This is a complex and awful situation. Many Tuareg and other light-skinned Malians and immigrants residing here have fled because they are either
1) afraid that Mali’s non-Tuareg population will associate them with the rebellion and attack their property or their person (this has happened in different parts of the country) or
2) afraid of the approaching MNLA, who have been fighting their way through northern Mali or
3) afraid of the Malian government and military or
4) all of the above.
Let’s all keep in mind the following: the situation is complex. It is not a simple story of hero rebels liberating a population from an oppressive government. It’s also not a simple story of a benign government trying to put down a “terrorist affiliated” insurgency. Nor is it a story of Mali’s non-Tuareg population perpetrating systematic violence against lighter skinned ethnic groups.
There are many Tuareg who support the rebellion. There are many who don’t. There are Tuareg who have been harassed and attacked, who have had their property destroyed. This does not mean that every non-Tuareg has participated in an anti-Tuareg pogrom.
This post is apolitical and the message is one of peace and assistance.
1. Get the Word Out
Friends over at Essakane Film have published a comprehensive press release detailing the refugee crisis. Click here to read it.
The refugee situation has emerged quickly. Relief agencies like UNHCR and the International Red Cross are trying to catch up. Right now, the story has a low media profile. Use the information and linked articles in that press release to change that.
Go to media websites and write them (most have contact forms). Get on facebook and twitter (don’t have a twitter account? Make one. It takes two seconds and you can send out a few tweets and be done with it. Or keep using it because it is a great tool and resource). In your message/tweet/facebook post, link to the press release itself or any of the articles embedded within.
You can also tweet: @cnn, @ac360, @maddow, @ariannahuff, @msnbc, @abc, @huffingtonpost, @hrw (human rights watch), @bbc, @france24, @ajenglish
Here is an example tweet (feel free to copy and paste this):
UN: 20,000 Who Fled Violence in #Mali Need Help http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/UN-22000-People-Flee-Mali-Fighting-138848574.html @ac360 @cnn @andersoncooper @huffingtonpost @abc @hrw @nickkristof
2. Skip that Pain au Chocolat and Donate a Few Dollars
There is a reliable and easy way to donate money to the International Red Cross operation in Mali and Niger. I am waiting to hear on additional online venues for donating to reliable organizations. As it stands, the UNHCR does not allow you to target your donations, but they are also operating in the Sahel now (see here).
To donate to the International Red Cross in Niger and Mali, click here, scroll down to other operations and select Niamey (Regional – Covers Mali and Niger). See screen shot:
Update: Thank you to Arnaud Contreras for bringing these two organizations to my attention. Both are operating on the ground in northern Mali and at least with Tamoudre, you can easily donate online via paypal. If you don’t speak French, use something like google translate.
Tamoudre (donations page)
Essakane Film press release
These twitter accounts are good follows for finding up to date information:
I tweet at @philinthe_
Please supplement above information with any resources, media contacts, and/or ways to donate to reliable NGOs and relief agencies, in the comments below. I will be traveling from Bamako to Fana tomorrow, returning Thursday evening. If needed, I will make additions then.
This is not the only humanitarian crisis going on in the world, but it is one in which we can effectively contribute and assist people who are in many cases getting squeezed from all sides. Spread the word. Donate a few dollars.