West Africa: Fati’s impossibly difficult decision
For ten days Fati travelled by donkey with three of her children in search of safety.
They are from Mali, where insecurity now plagues large swathes of north.
The family owns a herd of animals – an extremely precious asset.
When faced with the growing threat of rebel advance, they made an impossibly difficult decision: her husband stayed with their eldest child to continue to look after their herd and Fati fled with their three younger children. Who knows when – or if – they will be reunited.
Fati is now trying to survive in a refugee camp in Burkina Faso, with little access to food or medical care. Her youngest son is severely malnourished and fighting for his life.
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Fearing for their safety
The dramatic historic events in Libya have had unseen numerous consequences. Fati’s family’s forced flight from their home is just one of them.
Fati explained to us that even before she fled her home in Timbuktu – the famed UNESCO-protected city – she had feared for her safety.
Many Touareg soldiers from northern Mali were paid and armed by Gaddafi to fight Libyan causes.
Since the fall of the regime and the installation of the National Council of Transition in August last year, thousands of these soldiers returned to northern Mali, but this time they were trained and heavily armed.
Forced to flee
Although the recent events in Mali have been splashed across all main news channels, the impact it has on ordinary families is rarely reported or recognised.
Fati and her three youngest children are just four people among almost 270,000 who have been forced to leave their homes – more than 46,000 of them have come to Burkina Faso.
The other issue: hunger
Currently 15 million people across west Africa are facing hunger.
Rains were limited, crops failed and prices are rising. Families live a precarious hand to mouth existence, so any ‘shock’, such as failed crops, tips them into crisis.
Fati’s son Abdeldramane soon became a victim of this crisis. At only three years old, he was refusing the milk and bread offered to him by his increasingly desperate mother.
Working in crisis conditions
Save the Children is currently on the ground working across west Africa, including in Burkina Faso.
With the influx of refugees, we sent a team into the refugee camp to screen for malnutrition and deliver items, such as blankets and hygiene kits. These kits include simple but vital items, such as soap and a bucket, that can keep deadly diseases like cholera at bay.
This is when we met Fati and her family. We instantly diagnosed Abdeldramane as severely malnourished and put him on a course of high-nutrient food.
Fati and her family are still in the refugee camp. More people, many who have made tortuous decisions like her, are flooding into Burkina Faso every week.
An urgent response is needed to prevent the food crisis becoming a catastrophe and also to support those like Fati who are already caught up in the tragic events unfolding across the region.
Please make a donation today to help us continue our vital work in west Africa.
Frederique Boursin, Save the Children, Burkina Faso