Waiting for peace, hoping to return home
Many people from the North of Mali have taken refuge in the capital while they wait for the situation in the North to improve when they will finally be able to plan their return home.
Since the beginning of this year, Mali has been faced with a complex crisis. In a context of a regional food crisis, political instability in Bamako along with rebel uprisings in the North which, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, have provoked the displacement of more than 430,000 people in Mali and in its neighbouring countries. Thousands of these people have taken refuge in Bamako, the capital city of Mali, situated in the south of the country. In order to help these families who have left everything behind, ACTED is carrying out food distributions in the capital city and in its surrounding areas. Marion, ACTED Project Development Officer, was present at one of the organised food distributions in the district of Kalaban Coro, in the inner suburbs of Bamako.
“The small town of Niamana is 40 minutes away from Bamako. The distribution site was installed in an unused school as it is the school holidays. Some of the road to get to the school had been flooded in the morning, but the rain had not stopped the numerous families who had come to get their allocated supplies.
The families gathered in the school playground, some waiting to receive their supplies, others waiting for the cart in order to move the bags and the cans of supplies that they had just received, containing: oil, salt, sorghum, and peas. The distribution took place in an atmosphere of complete calm, everyone waiting their turn.
A man politely called over to me, he was about 40 years old and the father of 7 children. At the outbreak of hostilities in the North, he came with his wife and children to seek shelter and security in Bamako. He is a builder and lives from day to day since his arrival, as work is scarce in the capital. His eyes are empty of expression and he talks to me of his anxiety with regard to the future and the state of affairs in the north: “Our house is boarded up. When the telephone networks are working we manage to contact our family who stayed in Gao. They are mostly old people.”
Chadika is 23 years old, she carried her six month old baby on her back and came to the school where the distribution is taking place with her younger brothers, aged 7 and 12 years old. The latter spent a considerable part of the morning with me and helped me with the translation in Songhai, one of the languages spoken in the North of Mali. Chadika and her family have come from Kidal, one of the three regions in the North that is currently occupied by the rebels. “We arrived in a truck with nine other families”, she told me. “With the help of our family and friends we were able to rent a little apartment as we wait to return home.” In Bamako, they lost their bearings and their life no longer resembled what they had previously known in the North.
Her biggest worry is that her brothers and sisters will not be able to begin the school year in normal conditions and that they fall behind at school, on top of the trauma that they have already undergone during the move from the North to the South. Her only wish is that peace returns to her country and quickly.
Last June, ACTED started distributing food supplies in Bamako, with the support of the World Food Programme for the displaced, the vulnerable and their host families living in districts I and V of the capital and the district of Kalaban Coro on the urban fringes. For six months, ACTED will distribute non food items and will provide support through cash transfers for the most underprivileged families, with the aim of supporting them in their primary expenses (housing, food, health fees, school fees).