A UPS Boeing 767 cargo plane landed in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott on Sunday carrying the aid items for UNHCR as well as vital relief supplies for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP). It left earlier in the day from Copenhagen in Denmark.
The airlift of UNHCR aid included rolls of plastic sheeting, jerry cans, mosquito nets and sleeping mats. These will be delivered to refugees in the Mbera camp, which lies some 60 kilometres from the Mauritania-Mali border and currently hosts more than 64,000 refugees.
“The aid flown in by UPS is most appreciated,” Yacoub El Hillo, director of UNHCR’s Middle East and North Africa Bureau, said on Monday.
UPS is covering all the costs of the transportation as part of a commitment to help the victims of the Mali displacement crisis. The United States-based company has been a UNHCR corporate partner since 2010, transporting mattresses for refugees in Tunisia and helping the refugee agency move a travelling photo exhibit to cities around the world.
More than 300,000 people have fled their homes in Mali since fighting erupted in January between a rebel Tuareg movement and Malian government forces. Families have found refuge in safer areas of Mali or in the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. Many face harsh conditions due to food and water shortages affecting the arid Sahel region.
UNHCR is on the ground providing life-saving assistance, including shelter, food, water and health care, and has airlifted thousands of family tents and tonnes of survival kits.
But the refugee agency urgently needs more funding to help the tens of thousands of Malian refugees in need, mainly women and children. Last week, UNHCR said it needed US$153.7 million to fund its emergency operation this year in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. In February, it had called on donors for US$35.6 million to cover the period up to July 2012.