Why are we there?

  • Conflict
  • Endemic/epidemic disease
  • Healthcare exclusion

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Our work

This is an extract from our latest Activity Report, looking back on our work in the previous year.


Conflict erupted in the north of Mali in January. Security forces fought Tuareg opponents, who were later supported by Islamist groups. In March, a coup d’état took place in the capital Bamako.

By April the country had virtually split into two, with Tuareg and Islamist groups controlling the north and an interim government in the south. At the end of 2012, the UN estimated that 340,000 people had been displaced, while some 145,000 people, including many health workers, sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Access to healthcare, already precarious due to lack of resources and infrastructure, was reduced further.

Healthcare in conflict zones

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) began providing basic medical services at three health posts in remote areas of Kidal region.

An MSF team then progressively took over the 65-bed Timbuktu hospital: emergency department, paediatric ward, general medicine, surgery, maternity services, pharmacy and laboratory. Staff also supported 10 health centres in the Timbuktu region, carrying out a total of 50,000 medical consultations.

In Gao region, east of Timbuktu, MSF provided basic services at two health centres from September. Staff conducted some 65 consultations each day and ran mobile clinics in rural areas. A team also took over the management of a 40-bed hospital in Ansongo, south of the city of Gao.

At the end of October, MSF began supporting the referral hospital and a health centre in Douentza, central Mali, providing outpatient, inpatient and maternity care and surgery, and conducting around 500 consultations each week.

Teams also assisted Malian refugees in the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger.

Malian refugees wait to be registered by Mauritanian officials and a local NGO after fleeing Mali in fear for the border in Fass

Malian refugees wait to be registered by Mauritanian officials and a local NGO after fleeing Mali in fear for the border in Fassala, Mauritania. Mauritania 2012 © Lynsey Addario/VII

Medical care for children in the south

Mali lies in the Sahel region of Africa, where children suffer from seasonal malnutrition as families’ food stocks run out and prices rise. In Mopti region, MSF started working at four outpatient and two inpatient therapeutic feeding centres in June, treating hundreds of children.

Staff continued to provide nutritional support and paediatric care at Koutiala hospital, Sikasso region. More than 4,800 children, most of whom had malaria, were treated at the hospital, and 4,400 with malnutrition were admitted to the inpatient feeding centre. Another 3,000 were treated at six outpatient feeding centres.

MSF supported four outlying health centres with staff, supervision, drugs and logistics. A complete package of preventive and curative care was provided for children at a fifth health centre in Konseguela. More than 80,000 consultations were conducted in the five centres.

Community health workers in 19 surrounding villages also detected and treated malaria, and made referrals for medical consultations. All children aged six months to two years received supplementary food to prevent malnutrition, mosquito nets to prevent malaria, and routine vaccinations, with follow-up consultations.

New malaria prevention campaign

Between August and October, MSF ran a seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaign newly recommended by the World Health Organization, reaching more than 165,000 children in Koutiala district.

Children took antimalarial medicine once per month for three months during the malaria season, with encouraging results: a 66.5 percent reduction in consultations for simple malaria within the first weeks of distribution, and a 70 percent reduction in children hospitalised with severe malaria.

At the end of 2012, MSF had 469 staff in Mali. MSF has worked in the country since 1984.

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