Report: Malian refugees face awful conditions in Mauritania camp

April 12, 2013 at 10:01 AM
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NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania, April 12 (UPI) -- Malian refugees fleeing to neighboring Mauritania face horrendous conditions in a U.N.-run camp, Doctors Without Borders said.

The organization said conditions are so bad, healthy people become sick after they arrive, the BBC reported Thursday. The organization said there was only one toilet for every 3,000 refugees at the camp and new arrivals must build their own shelters.

Militants seized control of major cities in northern Mali and imposed strict Islamic law following a coup in March 2012. Since January, French and Chadian troops have been aiding Malian forces in fighting the militants and have recaptured the area, but fighting still occurs in the mountains.

The report, "Stranded in the Desert," is based on testimony from more than 100 residents of the Mbera camp.

The report said refugees receive only 2.9 gallons of water a day while temperatures can reach 122 degrees F, and there is a desperate shortage of toilets although more are now being built.

New arrivals at the camp are waiting for more than a month to receive housing materials, and must use sticks and scraps of cloth to build makeshift shelters from in the interim.

"The number of consultations in [Doctors Without Borders] clinics in the Mbera camp has increased from 1,500 to 2,500 per week," the organization said. "The number of children admitted per week for severe malnutrition has more than doubled, from 42 to 106, despite the nutritional status of the new refugees being generally good when assessed on arrival in the camp."

The group said the situation has improved recently, but is calling on other aid organizations operating in the camp to ramp up efforts to provide shelter, clean water, bathrooms and food at minimum humanitarian standards.

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