The United Nations says fighting in northern Mali between government forces and Tuareg rebels has forced about 130,000 people to flee their homes.
The U.N. refugee agency says people are seeking refuge inside the country and in neighboring countries, like Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. An estimated 60,000 Malians are internally displaced and the largest number to flee the country — about 30,000 — are in Niger.
Refugee Oualid Djibril fled with his family to the village of Gaoudel in Niger. He says they have lost everything.
“Our country is destroyed. They are taking everything from us. I came here with my wife and children because they took everything we had.”
The U.N. refugee agency on Friday appealed for more than $35 million in emergency funds to deal a rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis.
Clashes between the Malian army and Tuareg rebels began in mid-January, ending a 2009 peace deal that stopped a previous Tuareg rebellion.
Taureg fighters in northern Mali began attacking towns and government positions on January 17. Many of the fighters returned to Mali from Libya last year, after fighting on behalf of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Ethnic Tuareg rebels launched rebellions in both Mali and Niger during the last decade. The rebels say the governments of both countries neglect their communities and are fighting for autonomy.