Disaster response Mali

Mali conflict - Emergency communications for the population of Timbuktu

Published on Feb 01, 2013 01:00 AM  -  Updated on Jul 09, 2019 12:43 PM
TSF deployed in Mali on 1st February 2013 to set up satellite connections in Timbuktu after the liberation of the city by the French and Malian armies.

Context: Conflict
Start date: 01/02/2013
End date: 21/03/2013
Areas of intervention: Timbuktu

  • Support to coordination
  • Humanitarian calling operations

4 200 beneficiaries directs


After fifty years of being the stage of conflicts between authorities and the Tuaregs, North Mali had been in the hands of Islamist groups since June 2012. Fighting between rebels and the Malian army in the north of the country intensified in 2013, causing many civilian deaths and injuries.

The French military intervention as part of Operation Serval allowed authorities to regain control of the city of Timbuktu on 27th/28th January 2013.

Communications were heavily disrupted in northern Mali, where land lines and mobile network were cut off across several towns. NGOs’ activities in this region were limited owing to the degradation of safety conditions.

However, coordination and exchange of information via Internet was essential for the government, NGOs and local actors.

Support to coordination

A TSF team deployed from its international headquarters to Timbuktu on 1st February 2013 to support the coordination of humanitarian actors in the region.

Responding to the lack of landline Internet access, the TSF team established an Internet communications centre in Timbuktu’s town hall for use by government agencies and local and international NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières, Handicap International, International Migration Organization (IOM), Plan International, and a variety of medical teams. TSF’s Internet Centre was the only public interconnection in Timbuktu.

The TSF Internet Centre was the only public connection point in Timbuktu. This connectivity provided essential support to emergency workers by facilitating the exchange of information necessary for the management of their complex and dangerous missions. Aid workers and government officials were able to remain in permanent contact with the capital city of Bamako and with their headquarters in order to safely and effectively manage this humanitarian crisis.

As the Internet connection was not restored when its teams withdrawn on 12th February, TSF gave the municipal authorities all the satellite equipment necessary to access Internet until 21st March 2013.

Humanitarian calling operations

TSF also deployed 14 satellite lines to allow the affected population to communicate. A total of 550 connections were made for 4,200 beneficiaries, for whom this was often the first call to their loved ones.

Thanks to TSF, inhabitants were able to make international calls (United States, Senegal, Ivory Coast, France, Liberia) to tell their relatives that they were safe and sound.

The Mayor of Timbuktu testifies: "The army has freed us, Télécoms Sans Frontières has reconnected us! I was able to reach Bamako and directly inform the local authorities of the situation here in Timbuktu".