Malian refugees in Mauritania: education in an emergency context
Mauritania is the second host country for refugees fleeing Mali. Almost 55,000 people of the 135,000 who have fled Mali are now in Mauritania. Nearly 60% of those are children. As the conflict in Northern and Central Mali worsens, Aid Zone travelled to the Mbera refugee camp in Mauritania to see what is being done to educate the refugee minors there and protect them from forced marriage and child labour.
Seen from above, Mbera is a sea of tents and sand. 55,000 refugees have travelled the 60 kilometres from the border to get there. It is the only such camp for Malians in Mauritania.
The flow of new arrivals into Mbera is constant. Two thirds of those in the camp children, meaning, after food and healthcare, education is vital.
explains Sadio, a Malian refugee.
Being able to attend class is crucial for students like Sadio. Otherwise girls in the camp face the prospect of being forced into marriage, while boys risk being sent off to work. On top of such dangers, many of these children have experienced considerable trauma before arriving in Mauritania.
Now 17-years-old, Sadio is the mother of a two-year-old girl. She is at school thanks to the efforts of Rougui, a social worker with a local NGO financed by UNICEF. The project is funded by EU Humanitarian Aid.
Rougui Deme, a Social Work Assistant at the camp, said:
5000 students in the camp are in school
Out of a total of 31,000 children in the camp, around 20,000 are of school age. There are eight primary schools for them. Such a large number of children is obviously a challenge for UNICEF and the UNHCR due to a lack of classrooms and teachers. In spite of that, over 5,000 students are receiving education.
one girl says.
Cheikou Wane, a Child Protection Officer working for Unicef at Mbera says:
Monica Pinna, Dailyrater
As part of efforts to educate the children in Mbera, the EU is helping to finance the building of new schools in the camp. According to EU Humanitarian Aid, providing education in emergencies is one of the best ways to invest in childrens' long-term future.
says Isabel Coello from EU Humanitarian Aid.