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Surviving in a city far away from home

December 14th, 2012


The Traore family is divided by the conflict in northern Mali. Forty two people have run south to Bamako, the country’s capital, and are living in just two rooms of a half-built house in the city’s Quartier de Baco Djicoroni. The rest, thirty-eight in total, too old, or too scared of the long trip, stayed behind in Timbuktu, their home town. Things there are so bad, and atrocities caused by the new Islamist rulers of Timbuktu are so grave, that even the handicapped and the elderly are now running away. The latest arrivals in Bamako from the Traore family include a blind man and a woman who lost both her legs to infection.

The patriarch Amar Traore graciously invited me into the family’s temporary home. But just how temporary is it? Mr Traore works part-time in a bakery, whenever he can get a few hours employment. His wife and stepmother make vermicelli in these crowded rooms which they sell door-to-door in the neighbourhood. It’s a hand-to-mouth existence.

And it’s why we have just doubled our emergency funding for the crisis in Mali from nineteen million to thirty nine million euros. This year the European Union – the Commission and member states – has mobilised 101 million euros to help Mali.

The political and security situation is highly fluid. Less than 48 hours after I had a meeting with Mali’s prime minister at his home on the banks of the Niger River he was arrested there by soldiers and within a few hours had appeared on television to announce his immediate resignation.

The Traore family is not alone in choosing to flee their northern homeland. 445,000 people have taken the same route, either crossing borders to seek shelter in neighbouring countries or becoming “internally displaced” like the Traores.

We will do our best to assist them wherever they are. But for their lives to return to normal, the conflict that pushed them out from their homes must be brought to an end – and for this the world must extend a helping hand to Mali.

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