Mali election: Who’s listening to the IDPs?

As Mali elects a new president, internally displaced persons say they’re not expecting things to change for the better.

The war in northern Mali has forced about 300,000 people to flee their homes and while most became refugees in neighbouring countries, tens of thousands are now internally displaced.

Thousands arrived in the capital, Bamako, over the past few years and have since relied on charitable donations to get by. But as the country prepares to elect a new president, those displaced say they are not expecting things to change for the better.

Like many, Khadijettou Bint Jiddo and her friends make their way to the Nour al-Iman Foundation on a daily basis to check whether aid is being distributed.

They came to Bamako with their families after fleeing insecurity and harsh living conditions in the north, where fighting persists.

“I arrived here from Timbuktu in 2012 because the north became too dangerous for us. I don’t like to stay here but I have no options. I couldn’t feed my children and our lives were in danger,” Jiddo said.

Some of the women who approach the charity are widows, Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Bamako, said.

“Others are just too poor to feed their children,” he added.

Safe haven

The head of the foundation has offered the backyard of her home to the women, who consider the space a haven.

When there is no aid to be distributed, the women carry out “communal work … and plant vegetables in the backyard and share the produce”, Vall said.

The charity provides help to some 1,000 displaced families.

“We send requests to other charities which provide us with aid for these people,” said Fatima Fadel from the Nour al-Iman Foundation.

“Their main problem is housing. Rental cost is very high and so are other needs such as water, electricity and food,” she explained.

The charity also runs a shelter for orphans and children of those displaced. A registered family would receive monthly rations and their kids receive free schooling.

“These families are the lucky ones because they managed to get registered and helped by the relief organisation,” Vall said.

“But the UN talks about more than 60,000 internally displaced people in Mali – and with the violence ongoing, that number keeps rising.” 

Those displaced from the north say while they do not feel adequately represented by the running candidates, they are prepared to vote for whoever pledges to end the ongoing violence.