Thousands planning to return home to northern MaliListen /
Thousands of people displaced by conflict in the north of Mali are expected to head home soon, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, which says it's gearing up to assist them as they make their journey.
UNHCR says it hopes to have proper access to Gao and other cities in the north as soon as security conditions allow. In total, an estimated 380,000 people have fled northern Mali since the start of the conflict a year ago – 230,000 of those have been internally displaced, 150,000 others have become refugees in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria.
Adrian Edwards, UNHCR Spokesperson, says that supplies are getting to some of those in desperate need.
"We are urgently bringing into Mali relief items for 9,000 families, that's some 54,000 people, including sleeping mats, blankets, plastic tarpaulins, jerry cans, mosquito nets. On Tuesday, a distribution of relief items is scheduled to start in the town in Mopti, which is home to an estimated 40,000 internally displaced people at the moment."
Even though some internally displaced people are now preparing to return home, conditions in the north of Mali are still extremely difficult – with reports of serious shortages of food, clean water and fuel.
Nicki Chadwick, UN Radio, Geneva.