Mali: 'The worst thing would be to get to Konna too late'
Intense fighting occurred over the last week in central Mali – particularly in the town of Konna. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams have been working throughout the area straddling the line between the north and south of the country, in Douentza and Mopti, for several months.
Ibrahim Ahmed is in charge of these two medical projects. He describes the constraints the MSF teams face and provides an update on the situation in this pivotal region.
What is the situation in Mopti?
When we arrived a week ago, people were leaving the city ahead of the fighting. We all knew that the war had reached Konna, a small town 70 kilometres from Mopti. People were leaving to stay with relatives and friends. Mopti was nearly empty. The stores were closed and there was hardly anyone in the streets. By mid-January 2012, 46,000 Malian refugees had taken refuge in
How are the members of the Douentza-based MSF team?
They’re feeling a bit isolated but they’re fine. We are in regular contact with them. Since the bombing started, they have stayed in the hospital so that they don’t have to come and go. This was to ensure their own safety and also to respond to medical emergencies. The teams conducted approximately 600 medical consultations over the last week, including 200 children under five-years-of-age. Fewer people are coming to the hospital and the health centre we are supporting, which suggests that the town’s residents are not venturing out of doors, so we’re concerned about their health. Surprisingly, we have not received any wounded patients. There isn’t much information – the situation in Konna region is unclear. It’s unusual to actually be positioned throughout a combat zone, to be so close. However, that’s the situation we are in today! On Monday (21 January), we learned that the French and Malian armies had arrived in Douentza. We’re waiting to obtain access so that we can travel to join our colleagues.
What is the issue regarding access to Konna?
We know that because of the ground and air fighting, this community could have significant medical and humanitarian needs. But as of now, and despite our repeated requests, we are still prohibited from entering the area, so it’s difficult to know what is going on there. Everyone – aid organisations and the media – is stuck in Sévaré, a town adjoining Mopti. Last week, we brought in two trucks loaded with medical supplies and medicine. We now have medicine on site and can organise mobile clinics quickly. We have enough medical supplies to stabilise any wounded patients and transfer them to Mopti, if necessary. Our surgeon, who is still in