22/11/2015 8:35 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Anita Datar, The Only Indian-American Killed In Mali Attack, Ran An NGO In Chennai


She dedicated her life to promoting healthcare and education in some of the poorest regions in the world, believing it will prevent violence and terrorism. But, as fate would have it-- Anita Datar became one of the 27 people killed during a deadly siege of a Mali hotel by Islamic extremists on Friday.

Anita Ashok Datar, 41, is the sole US citizen to have been killed in the attack, State Department Spokesman John Kirby said.

"We mourn American Anita Datar and all those lost in Mali Attacks," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a tweet yesterday. "We extend condolences to family & friends and stand with the Malian people," he said.

Anita had co-founded a non-profit that works with women in Chennai. Datar called it the "Yelp for underserved communities." One of her most recent tweets, with a photo on November 13, showed how information and communications technology was empowering women in India.

A resident of Takoma Park, Maryland, a DC suburb, Datar, 41 was a senior manager at Palladium, an international development firm with offices in Washington.

She was in Bamako as part of her 18-year beat in global health and international development that began with a stint in the US Peace Corps in Senegal in the late 1990s. Her work took her to countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, Guatemala, and Guyana, Bangladesh, and even India.

In a statement released through the US State Department, Datar's family said that they are devastated by the news.

"We are devastated that Anita is gone-it's unbelievable to us that she has been killed in this senseless act of violence and terrorism," the family said. "Anita was one of the kindest and most generous people we know. She loved her family and her work tremendously," the statement said.

"Everything she did in her life she did to help others - as a mother, public health expert, daughter, sister and friend," it said.

Datar was born in western Massachusetts and grew up in northern New Jersey. But her roots were in Maharashtra — father Ashok Datar is from Sadashiv Peth, Pune and mother Sunanda from Grant Road, Mumbai.

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She earned an MPH and MPA from Columbia University's Joseph Mailman School of Public Health and School of International and Public Affairs.

She worked in Senegal for two years with the Peace Corps (1997-1999) and spent much of her career working to advance global health and international development, with a focus on population and reproductive health, family planning and HIV.

She was a senior manager at Palladium Group and a founding member of Tulalens, a not-for-profit organisation connecting underserved communities with quality health services.

Armed extremists stormed Radisson Blu hotel in Mali's capital town locking in 170 people, killing at least 27 of them. Twenty captured Indians were evacuated without any harm.

With inputs from PTI

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