Mali - An IOM survey of internally displaced families from the northern areas of Mali living in the capital Bamako and the adjacent town of Koulikoro has indicated that 93 per cent of them want to return home to the north as soon as security and economic conditions permit.
The telephone survey, which was conducted earlier this month, polled 836 families from the northern towns of Timbuktu and Gao, which were under rebel occupation until their liberation by French and Malian forces in January.
The survey showed that 93 per cent of respondents intend to return to their region of origin. Of these, 92 per cent plan to return to their former houses. Some 23 per cent plan to return this month (February), while 32 per cent said they would return between March and year end.
Two thirds of undecided families said that they would decide a return date based on the security situation on the ground. Some 89 per cent of respondents expected the security situation to improve soon – suggesting many will return to the north in the near future.
Extrapolating from IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), which shows 8,539 displaced families living in Bamako and Koulikoro, some 2,000 families will return to the north as soon as security conditions have improved. The findings support earlier DTM data compiled in December 2012.
DTM data suggests that some 4,556 families intend to eventually go back to Timbuktu, 3,008 to Gao and 216 to Kidal.
Given that the DTM data only covers Bamako and Koulikoro, the overall number of displaced families wanting to return to northern locations at short notice could be very high. The Commission on Population Movements (CMP), the government body which compiles national displacement data, estimated the total number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mali to be 227,000 at the end of December 2012.
IOM’s flow monitoring points in Mopti, Segou and Sikasso identified an additional 18,702 individuals fleeing regions impacted by the hostilities in early 2013.
The survey data will allow the government and humanitarian agencies to plan for large numbers of returnees flooding north. This exodus could put huge pressure on infrastructure, including transit points in Mopti and Segou, where stocks of food, water and medical supplies will need to be built up. Hygiene and sanitation will also need to be upgraded.
Survey respondents identified major needs associated with return to their communities of origin, including transport, food and emergency shelter materials to repair their traditional banco (adobe) homes.
Basic services and assistance to restart income-generating livelihoods will also be needed to facilitate their reintegration, according to IOM Mali, which is seeking funding to support local NGOs able to help returnees on the journey and on arrival. It is also seeking funding to help families who remain displaced.
IOM Mali’s IDP tracking and monitoring activities are funded by contributions from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the European Community Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO).
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