Urgent humanitarian help needed as war in Mali expands: UNHCR

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This 10-year-old boy escaped recent fighting in the Malian town of Diabaly and found refuge in the capital, Bamako. (UNHCR)

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is renewing its appeal for an urgent scaling up of international aid for the hundreds of thousands of people now displaced by the war in Mali.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says this is to prevent a worsening of the now acutely fragile humanitarian situation across the Sahel.

The agency says since the start of the conflict in northern Mali a year ago, more than 150,000 refugees have fled to neighbouring Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, while nearly 230,000 have sought safety in other areas inside Mali.

Spokesperson Melissa Fleming says people fleeing the current fighting in the north of Mali have been giving worrying accounts of atrocities said to have been committed by the Al-Qaeda-linked rebels.

" What really, really is worrying us are the accounts we are hearing from the internally displaced and from refugees. A former resident of Gao, for example, who left the town after recent air strikes, told us that all the food and fuel are in short supply. They say that rebels have stripped the city hospital of medicines, and at the hospital dead bodies are said to be everywhere. Wounded fighters are being brought into the city, and among the fighters are many foreigners, they say.”

Duration:  32″

Ms. Fleming says the person with whom the agency spoke reported seeing a woman being executed summarily for refusing to show the contents of her bag to a fighter as she tried to board a bus. It is reported that amputations of hands or feet are used as punishments.

Donn Bobb, United Nations

Duration: 1'32"

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