Mali, a country nestled in the middle of West Africa, is a nation divided in two. Rebel groups have been occupying the north, an area the size of Texas, aided by the instability of the country's government in Bamako. Fighting in the north has intensified since the arrival of French troops in January 2013. Reports of atrocities against northerners abound: killings, maimings, rapes and the recruitment of child soldiers. As a result, more than 200,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. Another 200,000 have moved south—many to Bamako, the nation's capital. These are some of the people Catholic Relief Services is helping with support from partners Trócaire and Irish Aid.
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Helen Blakesley is CRS' regional information officer for West and Central Africa. She is based in Dakar, Senegal.