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Mali: responding to crisis

I’ve only been in Mali a few days, and I’m already exhausted. Having arrived three days earlier than planned because of the disruption of flights into Mali, my feet have barely touched the ground.

It seems I’ve just unpacked my bag (yet again) into what will be my new room (yet another) for the next month when I’m met by the Save the Children car and taken to the office.

The office bears all the usual signs of an emergency – maps, paper and files everywhere, and the trusty coffee maker in the corner, gurgling away and barely keeping up with demand.

Getting up to speed

We sit in one big room and quickly get to know one another.

Questions are fired across the room: Have we ordered those education kits? When is the meeting on the cholera response? Are you going to Diema this week?

Faces change regularly as people travel to our programmes and their seats are quickly filled.  It’s always hard to get to know who everyone is when you join a new team; this is especially hard.

Direct and well-timed support

After preliminary meetings with our food security and child protection experts, I feel I have a slightly better grasp on what is going on.  I’m told our staff on the ground are distributing seeds to families in one region, Sikasso, as we speak.

It rained during the first distribution, and the farmers told us they will plant immediately. It’s inspiring to hear we are delivering such direct and well-timed support.

Our child protection adviser then talks me through our funds and our plans, explaining the risks facing children in Mali at the moment – everything from being separated from their parents as families leave their homes in search of safety, to the psychological impact of leaving home and witnessing violence at a young age.

Comfort in crisis

Getting funds to help protect these children is crucial. He explains that we’re already using local radio stations to transmit messages across Mali on these issues.

I think to myself that it must be a comfort for parents or carers to receive messages of support and advice in such a time of confusion and crisis.

As the meetings draw to a close, I hear we’ll be distributing education kits to some schools in Bamako, so I ask if I can join. It seems we’ll be leaving in just a few hours. I grab my camera and pen and paper and run out of the door…

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