The First Stage of Life
In the womb:
A Malian baby is often at a disadvantage from the moment of conception.
Almost half of all pregnant women have not benefitted from antenatal care. Over 59 per cent of them give birth at home without the assistance of trained midwives. Complications during or after birth, such as post partum haemorrhaging or obstructed labour, put their lives and their babies’ lives at risk because they cannot reach medical help in time. Modern communication technology and transport are a rarity in rural areas.
Micronutrient deficiencies, such as iodine and iron, are common in most pregnant women in Mali. They could be easily remedied with supplements during antenatal care consultations. Some 68 per cent of women suffer from anaemia either due to poor nutrition or illness, such as malaria. Severe anaemia in a mother can result in her baby having a low birth weight of less than 2,500 grams or in a stillbirth.
The first week of life is critical. A baby can die due to infections caused by unclean delivery practices and poor sanitation.
The first year:
Only one out of every two babies born in Mali will receive a birth certificate and will be breastfed right after birth and only four out of ten babies will be fully immunized before 12 months. Immediate and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life would make a significant difference to a baby’s chance of survival and their development. Only 38 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months. Mothers often give water, other liquids or solid food in addition to breast milk. Such feeding practices significantly weaken the baby’s immune system. A child is also especially vulnerable during the weaning period and requires a well balanced diet, which few have.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is wide spread and 85 per cent of Malian women have undergone this harmful traditional practice. An increasing number are cut before reaching the age of five years causing permanent damage to their bodies and increasing the risk of child mortality due to infection.
Under five years old:
A child under five years continues to be vulnerable to preventable diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, and pneumonia, which will also leave him or her malnourished and prone to other diseases. Half of all child deaths are nutrition related and many malnourished children who survive will never fully recover. Their growth will be stunted and their cognitive development retarded - 38 per cent of children in Mali are stunted.
The main causes of under-five deaths are neonatal conditions (26 per cent), pneumonia (24 per cent), diarrhoea (18 per cent) and malaria (17 per cent). About eight out of ten under-five deaths occur at home.