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January 10, 2013: it’s a day that Nanaï Touré*, and other residents of Konna, Mali, will never forget.
Konna is a small city near the border between northern and southern Mali, the main dividing line of the current conflict. The city was home to about 41,000 people, mostly farmers, herders, fishermen, and traders. When armed rebel groups from the north arrived in January, followed closely by the French airstrikes that were targeting them, 90 percent of the population fled the city within a day, joining hundreds of thousands of displaced Malians.
“I live in the third district of Konna near the fishing port, which was partially destroyed by an airstrike,” said Touré. “When the armed groups came to Konna on January 10, like other inhabitants of Konna I fled by pirogue [a small, flat-bottomed boat] to the surrounding village of Diantakaye because a projectile fell on the roof of my hut.
I have three children. I grabbed the youngest to flee and had water up to my shoulders. I asked people to help my husband who is disabled. I didn’t know where my other two children were. But a week after the military intervention, we found each other again at home.”
A few weeks later, Konna’s central city market has reopened and citizens are now returning to their homes, but not without vivid memories, like Touré’s, of fleeing for their lives.
Oxfam is helping displaced people in Mali as well as refugees in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger with food, water and sanitation services, health and hygiene kits, as well as classroom construction and gender sensitization training in some areas.
*Not her real name.