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The current situation facing Malian refugees in the Sahel: some operational ideas for a prolonged emergency situation
Valérie Léon



The communities of Northern Mali have been displaced many times and even though exodus is always an ordeal, being pastoral and nomadic gives these communities a key asset in the face of the vagaries of climate. However, political instability, the fear of violence and the non-recognition of their demands mean that it is currently difficult for them to return. The vast majority of Malian refugees will only return on the condition that the conflict is resolved, and law and order and basic services are restored. But the political instability in Mali and the difficulties in providing a minimal guarantee of a safe return in the long term mean that prolonged exile is likely, and even local integration of the refugees in Sahelian regions which are chronically vulnerable and still affected by a food crisis. With the possibility of new arrivals, the main operational challenge today is to link emergency solutions and medium-term support (for refugees, for those who have been reintegrated and for local communities). This means that the usual distinctions need to be avoided (between categories of people, between emergency and resilience solutions, etc.) and there needs to be greater coordination between humanitarian and development actors (sharing of contextual and vulnerability analysis, and making programmes complementary). This is the case for the REGIS initiative (funded by USAID), which is being launched in Niger and Burkina Faso, and which will provide support to communities affected by the Malian refugee crisis. Finally, the mobilisation of resources by donors should be more systematically adapted to expected changes in the context and should be based on prevention rather than crisis management. The ability to adapt programmes to changes in the context remains an area where there is a great deal of room for improvement.

Valérie Léon - Researcher & Evaluator, Groupe URD