Interview with Ms Fadimata Bintou
Sébougou (June 13, 2013) - Nearly half a million people fled their homes since the conflict in Mali began last year, some of them took refuge in neighboring countries and others sheltered with friends and families in Mali.
Ms Fadimata Bintou, originally coming from Goundam (Timbuktu region), is a displaced women and one of many female heads of household, now living in Sébougou (Ségou region) with her six children. Ms Bintou, along with over 6000 households, received hygiene kits, food and financial support from CARE Mali and its donors (UNICEF, WFP, ACDI, and ECHO).
What was your life like before the crisis?
‘’I was living in Goundam, together with my husband and my children. My family mostly lived on agriculture and livestock farming. We had one of the biggest sheep breeding farms of the city. With my daughters and other girls, I worked at home, tailoring, making dresses and pearls. With the earnings of these activities I paid my children’s school fees (annual registration fee for public school and school material), clothes and contributed to paying our daily food.’’
What happened once the crisis started?
‘’Along with the shootings, panic was gradually increasing within the city. People started to leave, banks closed down and we had little money left, which caused huge difficulties to us. With the arrival of the armed groups, our breeding farm, known in the entire city, was looted. Our creditors, many of whom were officials, could not pay us anymore because banks were closed. The schools were also closed and the situation became difficult for everybody. That’s why I decided to send two of my kids to my sister in Ségou to allow them to finish their studies. They had a hard time to adapt, due to the difficulties in understanding Bambara, the language that is used by the teachers. My son didn’t succeed in his final exams, but thank God, my daughter successfully finished her exam.’’
How did you finally end up in Ségou?
‘’As things didn’t get any better in Goundam, people said that those who’d stay were choosing to give up life. So I left as well and joined my children in Ségou, at my sister’s place in July last year. There I decided to rent a house where I could stay with my kids because we became too many people in my sister’s house. I’m living in this unfinished house, paying 20’000 FCFA (West African Francs, approx. 40 USD) per month. I’m very much behind in paying my rents right now.’’
How did you experience your first hours in Ségou?
‘’We were relieved once we were in our rented house, because we had more space, but we also encountered more difficulties to meet the demands of our basic needs. Back then, I only had money to buy one bag of rice. For our other needs I had to ask other displaced people, neighbouring families and all our acquaintances. We were living for one month in this very hard situation. My ethnicity allows me to easily approach other people, (including authorities). Moreover, my level of French helped me to receive the trust of my displaced sisters, and they nominated me president of our association: The association of the united sisters from Sébougou.’’
How did you get to know CARE?
‘’I heard people talking about the inscriptions to the Social Development Program during the month of August, allowing them to benefit from humanitarian aid. That’s when I enrolled as head of household, with my children and my husband (in charge of eight people). We were waiting day and night to receive any kind of help following this enrolment. Thanks to God, my name was on the list issued by CARE. The first time I received groceries was during the month of Ramadan. There was rice, small peas, oil and salt (financed by the World Food Program). Since then, I regularly receive a monthly ration of food for my family.
Apart from the food, I also obtained 20’000 FCFA (financed by ECHO; 40 USD) and a hygiene kit in February (UNICEF). A few weeks later I received another 30’000 FCFA (ECHO; 60 USD).’’
What were you able to do with the help of CARE?
‘’This aid has been of great use for me. I cannot even say how much I was relieved by this support. Now, thanks to the groceries I receive, I can plan my expenses and make sure my family has enough to eat. I used the money that I got to pay off my rental debt and I’m restarting little by little with the production of pearls, like I used to do in Goundam.’’
What are your perspectives?
‘’I pray to God every day, that peace may come back to the north and that we can go back home. We hope (she speaks in the name of the IDP’s) that the support will continue and facilitate our resettlement. Everything has been destroyed or looted: the houses, the schools, the markets… We need money to rebuild our houses, pay off our debts here (host place), we need hygiene kits including cooking materials, but also, first and foremost, we need food. We need you to support us.
When do you think you’ll be going back home?
‘’I’d like to return home in September, to coincide with the beginning of the next school year. But I won’t be able to go back if peace is not there and if the schooling conditions haven’t improved (rehabilitation of schools, return of teachers and school materials and equipment).’’
What are your words towards CARE and the collaboration with the field staff?
‘’I really very much appreciate the collaboration from CARE. The field staff was treating me very nicely and all the other displaced persons as well. For example, they asked us many questions, explained to us the components of the hygiene kit and organised awareness sessions. We received green numbers which we could call for information, suggestions or complaints. I’m very thankful for the work they did and I would like to thank the whole CARE Mali team. If CARE Mali were a candidate for the presidential elections, us, the displaced, would vote for them, because we haven’t seen anyone, nobody has been helping us. It was CARE Mali that came to support the displaced people from Ségou.’’
For more information on the conflict in Mali and CARE's response, please click here.«All Stories and Blogs