Hay-on-Wye based charities, Hay2Timbuktu and Jump4Timbuktu, have joined forces to launch a crisis appeal under the banner ‘Together for Timbuktu’.

The charities aim to send aid to the increasingly unsettled Malian region amid a growing Islamist threat and urgent requests for help from scared friends caught in the conflict.

Since the Welsh town was twinned with Timbuktu in 2007, it has developed a close relationship with the historic Malian city, including exchange visits, medical and artisanal projects.

Halle Ousmane Cissé, Governor of the Timbuktu Region, told trustees: “People are fleeing their homes terrified. They are arriving in Timbuktu without clothes, cooking utensils or tools, having left in the clothes they stood up in.

“All roads in and out of Timbuktu have been blocked. No planes are allowed to land or take off and a curfew has been instigated.

“The cost of rice and fuel have skyrocketed and we sometimes go four days without eating.”

In recent years Hay2Timbuktu has built toilets and washing facilities at schools, funded bursaries for girls in secondary school, and provided solar-rechargeable lamps so children can see to do their homework. The charity also funded radio information about COVID-19, and sent relief supplies.

Melanie Prince, Hay2Timbutu trustee said: “Over the years we have built up really close links with several schools in the town, so to not hear anything for so long is really very worrying. The last we heard the schools had been forced to close, with many becoming temporary shelters for IDPs from people from outlying villages seeking refuge from ongoing indiscriminate shelling and raids in the region.”

Jump4Timbuktu, the trading arm of Tuareg Relief Charity, established a FairTrade agreement with Tuareg artisans, selling silver and leatherware locally in the Hay Makers gallery in Hay. The project later grew to include food and water security projects with three Tuareg communities.

Sue Campbell, Director of Jump4Timbuktu, said: “We work with the poorest of the Timbuktu people: the Tuareg population.

“‘It is a measure of the severity of the present crisis that communities that stayed put in the darkest days of the jihadist occupation of 2012-2013 have deserted their villages, terrified by raids by unspecified ‘bandits’.

“There is no end in sight to the situation.”

Fiona Howard, Chair of Hay Town Council, has also sent a letter of support to the people of Timbuktu.

A ‘Together For Timbuktu’ fundraising event is planned on November 26 at the Globe at Hay.