People at serious risk as violence escalates in Mali

People at serious risk as violence escalates in Mali

People at serious risk as violence escalates in Mali

People at serious risk as violence escalates in Mali

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is concerned about the intensification of violence in central and northern Mali. Rivalry between various parties of the conflict is restricting people’s access to healthcare. 

During the week of 27 November 2023, we had to evacuate our teams from Nampala to the town of Niono, in the Ségou region, as we were no longer able to ensure their safety. 

The Malian army, with support from its Russian partners, is fighting non-state armed groups in central and northern Mali. Members of the local community, both patients and colleagues, have informed us of deaths and wounded people in the villages and hamlets of Toulé and Toladji. MSF was the last medical organisation still operational in Nampala town. 

“In recent weeks, we have had to evacuate some of our teams and partially put on hold certain medical activities in the Ségou and Timbuktu regions. We are often the last humanitarian organisation to work in sensitive areas,” says Aissami Abdou, MSF operations coordinator in Mali. 

“When MSF decides to leave, it’s because the situation has become critical. We are concerned for people who are not taking part in the conflict, but who are nevertheless exposed to the violence and whose access to healthcare is now compromised,” says Abdou. 

“When we started operations in Toulé and Toladji, some people told us that they hadn’t seen a doctor for seven years,” he says. 

In recent months, other episodes of violence have also restricted people’s access to healthcare.  

From August to December 2023, the Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), a non-state armed group, prevented goods and basic necessities from entering Timbuktu.

The city and its surrounding areas were almost inaccessible by land and river. Due to various attacks and threats, the authorities issued a curfew, and the cost of living rose while food and fuel rations were cut. 

“The town’s isolation also had an impact on some of our activities,” says Jean Jacques Nfon Dibie, MSF project manager in Timbuktu. 

“Due to the difficulty of access and the lack of security, we had to limit activities and movements, evacuate some staff, and contend with the problems of medicine supply, logistical equipment, and fuel.

“Some medical supervisions have been temporarily suspended. This has had an impact on our activities,” says Dibie.

In Niafounké, also in the Timbuktu region, MSF and Ministry of Health teams treated 29 wounded, including two women, in the hospital’s emergency department following an attack on a military camp on 24 November.

To treat the wounded, our teams helped to triage the injured according to the seriousness of their condition and provided medicines and material. 

In September, an MSF vehicle transporting patients from Hombori to Douentza was shot at in Mopti. The vehicle was carrying a pregnant woman who, due to complications, had been referred to Douentza hospital. The pregnant woman was accompanied by her mother, who was killed, while she and two other passengers were injured. 

Fatal accidents involving explosive devices are also becoming increasingly frequent. On the night of Saturday 22 to Sunday 23 October, three vehicles returning from the market were blown up by explosive devices at three different locations on the Gossi – Hombori road in central Mali. 

Eight people were killed instantly and around 40 more were injured. All patients were admitted to the Hombori community health centre where our teams work.

The general security situation in the centre and north of the country is seriously concerning. The violence is impacting people, including our teams, who sometimes find themselves trapped. 

“We remind all parties to the conflict that our staff, ambulances and health structures must be respected and spared,” Abdou. 

“Our mission is carried out in compliance with medical ethics, which entail the duty to provide care without harm and to assist any person in danger, with humanity, impartiality and respect for medical confidentiality. 

“Our medical activities must be preserved. Children, pregnant women and the injured must be treated,” he says.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Médecins sans frontières (MSF).