An extremely urgent situation is developing in Timbuktu and the surrounding area. You are receiving this email because I know you personally, or you live in or near to Hay on Wye, or because you are connected in some way to Jump4Timbuktu. I have decided that I must approach all of you to alert you to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Timbuktu located in the semi-arid Sahel area adjoining the Sahara Desert. You will see at the end of this email that I am asking you to assist us in responding to this crisis as all the usual international aid and government support is on hold, and Jump4Timbuktu is one of the few organisations able to respond. Please read below my reasons for proposing that we intervene as a matter of urgency.
Some of you receiving this email know something about Hay on Wye’s link to Timbuktu. You may also know about the work of Jump4Timbuktu and our livelihood projects including our fair trade jewellery initiative under the umbrella of our charity, Tuareg Relief. Yesterday we received a phone call from Mohamed Lamine, the President of the Artisan Co-operative in Timbuktu, who declared that Timbuktu is now suffering a catastrophe, with people starting to die of hunger in a situation that is worsening daily. Two nights ago on the BBC news there were graphic photos of the Sahel crisis and its impact on the neighbouring country of Niger. The situation in Timbuktu is even more precarious as in addition to the famine caused by a failure of annual rains, there is also a Tuareg insurrection in the North of Mali. This has now triggered a military coup in the capital, Bamako, last week with the replacement of the democratic government by middle ranking military who are committed to taking a much more aggressive line against the Tuareg led insurgency.
Timbuktu is located in the combat zone between these two forces. Its population is a quarter Tuareg, for whom there is little sympathy in the Bambara dominated south of the country where the capital is situated. It is therefore difficult to imagine any central government aid getting to Timbuktu until the military and political situation stabilises. In response to the coup international governments have closed embassies and suspended aid to Mali until democracy is restored. In the meantime, many in Timbuktu who have the means to travel have left the area, and those that remain are too poor to extricate themselves. Situated on the edge of the Sahara and hundreds of miles from the next major town, there is no way that people can walk out.
Our son Callum is a fieldworker for Jump4timbuktu and he was in Timbuktu for one month just before Chrismas. He was one of the last foreigners to visit the city. His job was to undertake a survey of Jump4Timbuktu projects to improve long term water and food security. He interviewed people in three communities close to Timbuktu. The annual rains had failed and there was early evidence of famine, even then. The position now is much worse; food production has collapsed; the price of rice and fuel has soared; there is no effective government; international aid agencies have long since left Timbuktu due to security fears; people are trapped; people are now starting to die.
Jump4Timbuktu is one of the few organisations that can operate within Timbuktu. We have an operational Resource Centre in the city that enables us to be in daily communication; we have functioning projects with people who work with us; we have excellent relationships and reliable partnerships with The Mayor, The Artisan Co-operative, and AMSS, the Malian NGO which helps supervise some of our projects. We are not aware of any other organisation which is in this unique position of being able to get aid in place quickly in a targeted way.
This appeal is to raise funds to provide emergency food aid to people who are most at risk. We aim to create a bridge to enable people to survive long enough until aid and assistance is available from government and international NGOs. The more we raise the more people who can be saved. Jump4Timbuktu is sending 100% of the funds that we receive. Half of what we send is being distributed via Mohamed Lamine and The Artisan Cooperative to Tuareg families in Timbuktu and in the outlying communities such as those that Callum visited. The cooperative is making no charge for organising this. Everyone is related to everyone. We do not believe that any of the funds will go missing, though records are being kept of what is distributed and to whom.
The other half of the funds is being distributed by AMSS to the six communes of the city and again the aid goes to the most needy families. AMSS is well respected and experienced in this work and they charge 10% of what is sent to organise the distribution and for keeping records of what is allocated and to whom. We have made these arrangements in collaboration with Halle Cisse, the Mayor of Timbuktu, who will monitor and supervise the process.
We know that people in Hay on Wye, the UK town twinned with Timbuktu, and customers and friends of Jump4Timbuktu will want to know what is happening over there. And, if you have not already done so, would you please consider making a donation by following this link: http://www.jump4timbuktu.org/donate.php . If you are in Hay itself, you may alternatively go to the Haymakers Gallery which sells the artisan jewellery in Hay, and give them your donation in person. We will keep everyone up to date on progress via our website and our next newsletter.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and an even bigger thanks if you donate. If you feel that the situation deserves it, would you please forward this email to anyone that you know who you feel may be prepared to contribute.