When forty-year-old Hawa first fell ill, she traveled more than 600 miles from her home in Timbuktu in northern Mali to the capital city of Bamako in the south for care. For years she sought a diagnosis, traveling to countless medical appointments even as conflict erupted in her home city in 2012. At the time, access to health care was precarious due to a lack of resources and infrastructure, and was further complicated as people—including many health workers—fled to seek refuge in other cities and neighboring countries.
Years passed before she was finally diagnosed with cancer. “I spent so much time hanging around on benches in clinics and hospitals being told the tests were negative and there was nothing wrong, that by the time I was finally told it was a tumor, I was totally drained,” said Hawa. “Since that day, my life has been nothing but suffering and paying out money.” She has spent the last ten years undergoing medical tests, biopsies, and surgical procedures.
Hawa now receives palliative care and support from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Bamako as part of a new project run in partnership with Mali’s Ministry of Health. In November 2018, MSF began offering free palliative care and support services in patients’ homes and in Point G Teaching Hospital in Mali’s capital city. We also train health care staff and provide support to the hospital’s hematology-oncology department, where the majority of patients are in the advanced stages of the disease.