Mali refugee crisis rapidly deteriorating

Malians seeking refuge in neighbouring countries

United Nations agencies have launched a joint emergency operation to help thousands of people displaced by insecurity in northern Mali.

More than 500,000 people have been displaced with over 300,000 seeking refuge in neighbouring countries including Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Elisabeth Byrs of the World Food Programme (WFP) says her agency and the UN refugee agency are providing food and shelter to the displaced Malians.

"This is an emergency operation, and the cost of this special emergency food assistance operation is 77 million dollars. The rebel occupation in the northern areas of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu has exacerbated an already precarious food security situation. There are still reports of looting, markets remaining closed, limited access to food, clean water medical supplies, but we do our best to work with the local partners. In the north we are sending convoys on an ad hoc basis."  Duration: 44"

The UN agencies say the Malian refugees who have fled conflict in their own country now find themselves in neighbouring states that are already suffering from the severe effects of a regional drought.

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