Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Timbuktu, Mali, February 4, 2013— International Medical Corps’ Mali Emergency Response Team has carried out rapid humanitarian assessments in Timbuktu following the city’s fall to French and Malian forces on January 28. Arriving in Timbuktu on February 1, International Medical Corps immediately launched a multi-sectoral assessment, which included household-level surveys, clinical visits and key discussions with the few remaining health officials in the town. The team found pillaged clinics, missing medical personnel and damaged health infrastructure throughout Timbuktu.
International Medical Corps’ initial findings in Timbuktu illustrate significant gaps in health and nutrition services. On February 2 and 3, the emergency team visited Timbuktu’s regional hospital, four community health centers and district referral health center, which was found to be not functioning. Two of the four clinics visited had been pillaged by rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in April 2012 and remained without rehabilitation or replenishment of equipment and drugs since. According to a local health official, 10 of the 21 community health centers in the Timbuktu District do not have nursing staff, as many have fled to southern Mali or across the border to Mauritania. In other districts within the region of Timbuktu, coverage by clinical staff ranges from 20-50%.
In addition to assessing health capacity, International Medical Corps is assessing urgent nutrition, protection, water, shelter and other critical needs. On February 3, International Medical Corps trained 12 surveyors to assist in carrying out a household-level needs assessment in all of Timbuktu’s eight neighborhoods. This assessment will provide insights on the most urgent concerns that families in the city are currently facing.
Timbuktu is one of three northern regions (the others being Gao and Kidal) that were under the control of armed Islamist rebel groups since an April 2012 coup that effectively split Mali into two. When the rebel groups began moving south on January 10, the French army intervened, joining forces with Malian government troops to retake captured towns. Timbuktu was retaken by 1,000 French soldiers and paratroopers and 200 Malian troops without a shot being fired, but the rebels destroyed dozens of ancient shrines and damaged health infrastructure as they retreated. The current security situation appears stable, but French troops are expected to leave Timbuktu this week.
An estimated 4.2 million people in Mali are in need of humanitarian assistance. Since the deployment of its Emergency Response Team on January 22, International Medical Corps has conducted three rapid assessments in Mali in the towns of Konna, Douentza and Timbuktu. Information collected through these assessments has been shared with United Nations agencies, NGO partners and local government officials to highlight the most urgent concerns and facilitate a coordinated humanitarian response.
Since its inception nearly 30 years ago, International Medical Corps’ mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster, and disease, by delivering vital health care services and sustainable development projects that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance. For more information visit: www.InternationalMedicalCorps.org. Also see us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.