The children

The Life Cycle


The First Stage of Life

© UNICEF/MLIA2009-00112/Pirozzi
Listening for vital signs during a prenatal consultation in a community health centre in Djenne district. Midwives and qualified delivery aids play a key role for maternal and infant health.

In the womb

A Malian baby is often at a disadvantage from the moment of conception.

Almost 50% of pregnant women do not receive antenatal care. Over 59% of them give birth at home without the help of trained midwives. Complications during or after birth, such as postpartum bleeding or labour obstructions, threaten their lives and that of their babies because they cannot get medical help in time. Modern communication technologies and transport are scarce in rural areas.

Deficiency in trace elements, such as iodine and iron, is common in almost all pregnant women in Mali. They could be easily treated through supplements during antenatal consultations. More than five out of ten women are anemic (55%): 39% are anemic in its mild form, 15% in its moderate and below 1% in its severe form(Source: Mics 2010).

For a mother, severe anemia in a new-born baby can lead to low birth weight, below 2,500 grams, or stillbirth.

The first week of life is crucial. A baby can die of infections caused by delivery practices under poor hygienic and sanitary conditions.


© UNICEF Mali/2013/Dicko
A native of Gourma, on the right bank of River Niger in Gao, it is with a broad smile that Ichata breastfeeds her child.

The first year

In Mali, only one in five babies (SOWC 2014) receives a birth certificate and is exclusively breastfed right after birth. Mali is the country with the eighth highest mortality rate for children under five in the world. (SOWC 2014).

Immediate and exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life can make a big difference in chances of survival and development of the baby. Only 20% of mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies forsix months. Mothers often give water, other liquids or solid foods in addition to breast milk. These practices considerably weaken the baby’s immune system. Children are also particularly vulnerable during the weaning period and need a balanced diet, which is rarely the case.

Female genital mutilation/excision (FGM/E) are widespread. 89% of Malian women aged 15 to 49 years undergo these harmful traditional practices (Mics 2010). A growing number of girls are excised before the age of five, leaving them with permanent sequelae and increasing the risks of infection-related infant mortality.

Before the fifth year

Children under five are vulnerable to preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia, which will make them suffer from malnourishment and other diseases. Half of all child deaths are related to nutrition and many malnourished children who survive never really heal. Their growth will be slowed down and their cognitive development delayed.

Over one-quarter of children under 5 years (28%) have retarded growth (or are short for their age), including 10% with severe chronic malnutrition (Mics 2010).

The main causes of death among children under-five are neonatal conditions (26%), pneumonia (24%), diarrhea (18%) and malaria (17%). About eight in ten deaths among children under five occur at home.



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