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2 Easy Ways you Can Help over 20,000 Malian Refugees Right Now

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.

Two things:

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.

Hound media personalities who carry a lot of weight. Example: Anderson Cooper. His twitter account, facebook page, CNN’s facebook page. Click here to email his show.

Or New York Times writer Nick Kristof: @nickkristof on twitter and facebook.com/kristof

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:

Red Cross Donations Page

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)

Association ETAR

Resources

Essakane Film press release

These twitter accounts are good follows for finding up to date information:

@EssakaneFilm
@tommymiles
@BabaAhmed38
@martinvogl
@tweetsintheME
@agtita

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.

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{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Elizabeth Healy February 7, 2012, 8:51 pm

    Friends of Mali Ireland is working to support refugees who have arrived in big numbers in towns in Mauritania, .. these refugees are not eligible for the assistance of the ICRC or of the UNHCR who are developing plans for the 10,000 refugees in the small villages in Mauritania… eg Fessala.. The refugees in the towns are somewhat forgotten as they are (ubnderstandably) considered to be nearer to sources of food etc. However , I have been in contact with a number of them.. ( thanks to mobiles and occasional internet contact) and with representatives of support groups; both emphasise that this group of refugees are in need of shelter, (there is no accommodation to be found ,because of so many seeking accomodation at the one time) they also need clothing, blankets, and money to buy food, water etc. They do not have any clothes with them, nor cooking equipment, nor any daily needed items.Please send what you can, to Friends of Mali Ireland :Our account is at Bank of Ireland, Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland.
    Name of Account: “Elizabeth Healy for Friends of Mali -Ireland”
    Account No.:- 17231470
    National Sort Code (NSC):- 903998
    IBAN no. :- IE79 BOFI 9039 9817 2314 70
    BIC No.:- BOFIIE2D
    Bank Address: Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland.
    (Please include your name & “Refugee Fund” in the narrative.)
    if you need any further information please ask.. I will provide any details you might require…
    and thank you… from
    Elizabeth Healy.

  • Elizabeth Healy February 7, 2012, 8:55 pm

    from the article referred to in my previous comment…
    A. Refugee numbers in neighbouring countries:
    – 10,000 refugees in the town of Fassala southeast of Mauritania , approx 2084 families;
    – 850 people mainly women, children and elderly people or 220 families arrived in Nouakchott, some of whom have only their clothes on them (after the pogroms of Bamako);
    – 5000 families who arrived in southern Algeria (Borj, Tamanrasset …);
    – 5700 people in the Niger border (Chinogadrar);
    – 153 families arrived in Burkina Faso (following the pogroms);
    Several other families have left for Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, the United States, France and Switzerland

    B – Internally-Displaced Populations
    – Zone Aguel Hoc – Tessalit: 7000 displaced
    – Timbuktu West Area: 40,000 displaced (likely arrived in the refugee camps in Mauritania)
    All these figures are only provisional because of additional arrivals every day.
    The internally displaced people are a particulr worry as they have fled deep into the desert, with none of their normally meagre possessions.. they are sleeping under very cold skies at night, without their normal blankeets, and the areas they have fled to are already very food-insecure, with very scarce water supplies, if any… EH

  • Elizabeth Healy February 7, 2012, 8:56 pm

    * Likely to arrive in the refugee camps in Mauritania… EH

  • Claire / Bintou February 7, 2012, 10:29 pm

    Thanks for keeping us updated Phil, and for offering concrete ways to help. This whole situation feels really scary, especially for those of us that have friends and family there. Be safe and please keep the updates coming!

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures February 10, 2012, 8:45 pm

    Phil, you are SUCH an inspiration!!!!!!

  • Sof of The Unbounded Spirit June 30, 2012, 11:18 am

    Very inspiring. I hope everyone offers a helping hand for a better world!

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