We say goodbye to SIPA alumna Anita Datar

It is with unbelievable sadness to share with all of you that SIPA lost a wonderful family member this week. Anita Datar, MPA-MPH 2003, died during the terrorist attack in Bamako, Mali on Friday.

There has been an outpouring of support for Anita across social media. I received the following message from her friend and current SIPA student Tushar Malik, MIA 2017: “She was a brilliant public health specialist, and her unwavering spirit still lives on in her work. That’s what she was doing in Mali – trying to make the world a better place. She was a passionate advocate for women and LGBTQ rights, and cared a lot about public health and HIV. I’ve rarely met anyone so driven and committed; she was doing this work in countries where such conversations are taboo and difficult, but she unflinchingly kept working with communities on the ground in these places.”

Anita is the only known American killed in the siege on the hotel, reports The Washington Post. We have just learned of the news, and SIPA Dean Merit E. Janow sent the following message to the entire SIPA community:

Dear Members of the SIPA Community,

We mourn the passing of Anita Ashok Datar, a 2003 dual-degree graduate of Columbia’s Mailman School and SIPA, who was killed in a terrorist attack on a hotel in Bamako, Mali, on November 20, 2015.

Anita was an extraordinary individual who dedicated her life to the service of others and she will be remembered as a committed humanitarian and tireless advocate for global public health and women’s health and social justice. She came to Columbia after serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal. She was in Mali as a representative of Palladium, and according to them she was serving as the Senior Director for Field Programs for HP+, a USAID-funded health policy project focused on improving reproductive health in developing countries. She was also the co-founder and board member of Tulalens, a not-for-profit organization connecting underserved communities with quality health services.

Many of our students and graduates devote their lives to improving the world and working on economic development. Some are in very difficult environments with much personal sacrifice.

We are moved by Anita’s commitment to helping others and are saddened that her shining light was cut short by this tragedy.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Anita’s family and friends.

Merit E. Janow
Dean, School of International and Public Affairs
Professor of Professional Practice, International Economic Law and International Affairs

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