MALI: THE LONG ROAD TO BAMAKO

Moussa Thera typically spends his days working
with children in our emergency education programs in Mali, West Africa. But
January 10 was a day he won’t soon forget. Read his blog about fleeing the
embattled city of Mopti in war-torn Mali. The Mopti Office staff were
temporarily relocated on January 10 as armed rebel forces approached
Mopti; they have since returned.

"On
Thursday afternoon [10 January], I was planning a distribution of school
supplies for children with our local partners. We knew there were tensions in
the North, in Konna, so we had taken security measures just in case, but we
wanted to keep on working as usual because there’s just so much to do here in
Mopti.

Our work was
interrupted when the news came in that a city only an hour away from our office
 had been taken by armed groups. 

Soon after, the
security situation deteriorated in a nearby town. Then we received a call from
our office in Bamako asking us to get ready to be relocated. 

As I rushed home
through crowded streets to pick up some essentials, I saw  hundreds of people running in every direction.
Children were shouting .All the women had loaded their belongings on their
heads.

Then everybody
stopped. Only for a second but it seemed a lot longer. In unison everyone
looked up at the sky to see 3 aircraft heading north
on their way to battle. Then back to confusion as the crowd returned to panic.

Alongside the
road hundreds of men, women and children trundled out of town in unison.  Between them and us was a seemingly endless
collection of motorbikes.

During a stop, I
talked to a few people waiting to take a bus. 
They told me the price for transportation to Bamako had skyrocketed  

By the time we got
half-way to the capital it was getting dark. We 
planned to stop for the night, but all the hotels were fully booked. We were
not the only ones heading to safety.

It had been a
long day and we were tired and stressed. More than anything, we worried about our
students and the wonderful children in our programs.

The children in
Mopti need our support to go to school. Our work there provides students with
educational kits and supports school gardening and canteen activities. We also
identify out-of-school children and help them go back to school. That’s what I
love about my job: I know our work gives these children the opportunity to
study that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

When  a crisis unfolds, education can
often be forgotten. But it so important: it’s not only about learning, it also
gives the children a sense of normalcy. I believe this is really important in
time of conflict, when everything around is upside-down.

It broke my
heart to leave. The sooner we can go back the better.

I hope we can go
back soon.

Moussa Thera and his colleagues were allowed to return
to Mopti and resume their essential work the following week.

Save the Children is currently helping families in the
region through clean water, sanitation,
education, child protection and health programs.