UN refugee agency quadruples aid appeal for Sahel

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The U.N. refugee agency is more than quadrupling its aid appeal for Africa's Sahel region to deal with a surge in the number of civilians fleeing conflict in Mali.

The Geneva-based office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says it now needs $153.7 million for its operations this year in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

UNHCR said in a statement Thursday that the Tuareg uprising in mid-January, followed by a coup in March and a growing number of armed groups have prompted almost 320,000 Malians to flee their homes.

It now expects to have to help 440,000 Malians inside and outside the country this year.

The agency's previous appeal in February had estimated it would need to help some 85,000 people until July.