Conditions are appalling in the refugee camps for fleeing Malians in neighbouring Mauritania, which has taken the vast majority of the tens of thousands now streaming out of the country.
Conditions are likely to get worse as the influx quickens, and the relief agencies are sounding the alarm. Niger and Burkina Fasso are also taking in refugees, most of whom are being housed in the inaccessible and remote areas near where they have crossed the borders.
In Mauritania there is widespread fear that the conflict in Mali will escalate and spill over. And in a poor country like this, the strain of tens of thousands of refugees is immense. The opposition has held a meeting to discuss the crisis.
“We reject the concept of war and conflict in all its forms because it makes no sense and if it starts it’ll bring trouble to Mauritania,” says opposition leader Ahmed Ould Daddah.
Some have been in camps for more than a year, when the trouble began in the north of Mali, and mortality and malnutrition rates are rising as the crisis intensifies.