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.