Melanie Ndomadji is far from home. She is a lieutenant with the Chadian Police and is currently serving with the United Nations police force or UNPOL. She is stationed near the town of Menaka in north-eastern Mali.
Ten U.N. peacekeepers from Chad were killed and at least 25 were wounded while repelling an attack by armed assailants near a village in another part of northern Mali on Sunday.
The identity of the attackers was not immediately clear. U.N. peacekeeping and French forces are embedded in northern Mali to combat well-armed jihadist groups seen as threatening security across Africa’s Sahel region.
During one of my patrols, I met a pregnant woman who was in labour. She needed medical attention. As a woman and a mother, I felt it was my duty to help her
Ndomadji, her fellow UNPOL officers, and Malian troops are now conducting daily joint patrols around Menaka and its surroundings after the recent upsurge in violence in the region.
Gunmen on motorbikes killed more than 30 Tuareg civilians last week in northern Mali, where clashes over land and scarce water are common.
The identity of the assailants was unknown, but disputes between the nomadic Tuareg and herder Fulani ethnic groups have killed several hundred and displaced thousands over the last 12 months.
Ndomadji says they often have to go above and beyond the demands of risks presented by efforts to secure the area.
“During one of my patrols, I met a pregnant woman who was in labour. She needed medical attention. As a woman and a mother, I felt it was my duty to help her. I drove her to the nearest health centre, and she called me afterwards to say that she gave birth safely, and that they were in good health. We are doing very important work here in Mali,” Ndomadji said.
Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over its north in 2012 but were pushed back the following year.
They have since regained a foothold in the north and centre, tapping into ethnic rivalries to recruit new members.