Two weeks after military operations began in northern Mali, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to work in the regions of Mopti, Gao, and Timbuktu. In addition, on the morning of 24 January, a small MSF medical team managed to reach Konna, a town located 70 kilometres north of Mopti, in the pivotal area between Mali’s northern and southern sectors, where there has been intense fighting over the past week. Furthermore, nearly 6,000 new refugees were registered in Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Questions of Access
A four-person MSF medical team, composed of two doctors and two nurses, left Mopti early on 24 January and managed to reach Konna later that morning. Until today, MSF had been seeking authorisation to enter the town for the last several days, but without success.
Now that access has been permitted, the team is assessing the medical and humanitarian needs in the area. They also visited the Konna health centre, finding upon their arrival that there were neither any medical staff nor any patients in the town’s health care facilities. Team members therefore began providing primary healthcare consultations and organised mobile clinics to address the health needs of people in the area. In the coming days, as the assessments continue, MSF will be able to provide additional support to the Konna health centre.
Further north, in Douentza, MSF continues to work in the city’s hospital. The medical staff remained at the hospital around the clock despite intense bombing in the area, conducting approximately 450 medical consultations over the past week. Today, their priority is to augment the medical services provided to wounded patients, as well as to others who need surgical procedures such as Cesarean sections. MSF hopes to be able to resupply the team in Douentza soon, but access to the route into town is still restricted.
In Timbuktu, medical activities are on-going, particularly in pediatric, obstetrical, emergency, and surgical care. Over the past 10 days, MSF treated approximately 20 wounded patients at the Timbuktu hospital. The priority in this region is to expand hospitalisation and prepare to treat victims of all kinds of violence. Medical supplies and medicines have also been delivered to the health centres that MSF supports in the Timbuktu region.
MSF has been working in the area for more than 10 months and continues to handle large numbers of patients. In 2012, MSF conducted 50,000 medical consultations (approximately one-third of them for malaria), hospitalised 1,600 people, and performed more than 400 operations. The number of people coming to medical facilities has declined somewhat in the last few days, however.
Activities in Gao
MSF is working in three health centres in and around Gao—in the communities of Wabaria, Chabaria, and Sossokoria. Each day, medical teams are conducting approximately 60 to 65 medical consultations at each centre. This volume has remained steady even as the conflict has intensified, though bombing in the area did force MSF to temporarily suspend its mobile clinic, which had been providing access to medical care to people who could not reach any of the fixed sites.
Further south, in Ansongo, MSF is providing basic and specialised care in the local hospital, while also trying to ensure regular delivery of supplies and medicine and to increase the availability of surgery to the degree that teams could respond effectively in the event of an inflow of wounded patients.
Concern for the displaced
In Mali’s interior, insecurity, travel constraints and communications issues are complicating efforts to assess the number of displaced persons and their health status.
The United Nations has recorded 340,000 Malians who are either internally displaced or living as refugees in neighbouring countries. And another 6,000 people have fled the country since 11 January, taking refuge in Mauritania and Niger, where MSF is also working.
MSF works in the Mopti, Gao, and Timbuktu regions of Mali, as well as in the southern part of the country, conducting nutritional activities in the region of Sikasso and providing care to Malian refugees in the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger.