Maryland woman killed in Mali worked to improve global health
Nov 21, 2015 | 5:47 PM
As a Peace Corps volunteer, expert in global health and the mother of a 7-year-old boy, Anita Ashok Datar devoted her life to caring for and helping others, her family said.
Datar, of Takoma Park, Maryland, was one of at least 19 people killed in Friday's terror attack on a hotel in Mali, the State Department confirmed in a statement.
No other U.S. citizens were believed to have died in the attack, carried out by heavily armed Islamic extremists at a Radisson hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako.
"We are devastated that Anita is gone," her family said in a statement issued through the State Department. "It's unbelievable to us that she has been killed in this senseless act of violence and terrorism."
Datar, 41, was a senior manager at Palladium Group, an international development organization with offices in Washington, her family said. As a public health expert, she focused on family planning and HIV issues, work that took her to Africa often in the past 15 years. She also worked in Asia and South America, according to her LinkedIn profile.
"A week of horrifying violence overseas is now painfully felt here at home in Maryland," said Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement released Saturday. "Anita Datar strove to make the world a better, more compassionate place. Her work was important as she summoned the best of American values and ideals."
The Maryland Democrat said Datar's work "will live on and I hope her family can seek some solace during this painful time knowing that she lived a life of meaning."
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was also among those mourning her death.
"Anita Datar was a bright light who gave help and hope to people in need around the world," Clinton said in a statement on Saturday. "Anita represented the best of America's generous spirit."
Datar was the former partner of David Garten, an attorney who worked as a senior policy adviser to Clinton in the Senate.
"Everything she did in her life she did to help others — as a mother, public health expert, daughter, sister and friend," the family statement said. "And while we are angry and saddened that she has been killed, we know that she would want to promote education and healthcare to prevent violence and poverty at home and abroad, not intolerance."
The family said that of all her accomplishments, Datar was "most proud of her son." Her Facebook page is filled with pictures of the boy.
Born in Massachusetts, Datar grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Rutgers, her family said. She worked in Senegal with the Peace Corps for more than two years and earned master's degrees in public health and public administration from Columbia.
In addition to her son, parents and a brother, she is survived by "many, many friends around the world," the statement said.
Clinton said Datar's death should strengthen Americans' will to fight terrorism and radical jihadism.
"We face a choice between fear and resolve," she said. "Anita's murder should deepen our resolve. America must lead the world to meet this threat."