Are We Going to Let 107,929 Refugees Starve?

That is the number of Malian refugees in Burkina Faso.  It is also the number of people that are at serious risk of starvation because the international community can’t come up with the requisite funding for emergency food aid.

Some 53,000 Malians fled to Niger, 96,000 to Mauritania and a further 174,000 are displaced within Mali, according to UNHCR.

UNHCR estimates that 107,929 refugees – up from 56,000 in May – are now spread across five official (and nine unofficial) sites in Burkina Faso, mainly in Damba, Sérélio, Mentao, (Sahel), Somgandé at Ouagadougou, and Bobo-Dioulasso in the west. However, others estimate lower numbers – a census is underway to determine an accurate figure.

WFP has enough food for 60,000 Malians until the end of September, said its head in Burkina Faso, Angelline Rudakubana. “After that, it will be really tough.” She estimates that at least 77,000 refugees need food aid, but other estimates put the figure much higher.

“We need to buy the food now,” said Rudakubana, because it takes “at least” three months to get food to landlocked Burkina Faso.

As of today, the World Food Program in Burkina Faso needs a total of $61,245,874 to assure the food security for Malian refugees. So far, they have received only $21,129,954, or about 35% of what is required.  If donors do not pony up the funding now, over 100,000 refugees may starve by the end of September.

Beyond Burkina Faso, humanitarian relief in Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria and Cameroon is seriously underfunded. In total only $850 million of a $1.6 billion humanitarian appeal for 18.1 million people affected in the region has been committed. This is a great deal of money, but when spread across donors it is a drop in the budgetary bucket.