Every child should have an equal chance to survive and thrive

Farimata, 13 mois
UNICEF Mali/2017/Dicko

The challenge

Nearly half of all deaths of children under five in Mali are attributable to undernutrition.

Undernutrition puts children at far greater risk of death and severe illnesses brought on by common childhood infections, such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, HIV/AIDS and measles, due to the weakening of the body's defence system through malnutrition.

Chronic malnutrition, or stunting, affects 24 per cent of children in Mali. Stunting has long-term effects on a child's physical and cognitive development and makes children more susceptible to sickness and leads to poor performance in school. Mali also has one of the highest rates of acute malnutrition worldwide, and severe acute malnutrition – the deadliest form of malnutrition – affects two per cent of children.

The solution

A mother breasfeeding her child
UNICEF Mali / 2017 / Sokhin

In response to this situation, UNICEF in Mali works closely with WFP, FAO and WHO, to support the Ministry of Health with a nutrition programme that focuses on preventing all forms of malnutrition - by ensuring that children receive proper nutrition and care during the first 1,000 days of their life, a period of life known as the “window of opportunity” - while also providing immediate, lifesaving treatment for children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. In 2018, UNICEF supported the treatment of over 140,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition through ready-to-use therapeutic foods and other related medical treatment.

UNICEF in Mali, and partners, encourage the Government of Mali to implement proven, low-cost, high-impact interventions to prevent malnutrition. These include:

  • ensuring good nutrition during pregnancy;
  • promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months;
  • frequent and diversified complementary foods, in addition to breastmilk, between six months and two years and more;
  • preventing and treating micro-nutrient deficiencies, including through vitamin A supplementation, deworming, malaria prevention, and promotion of dietary diversity;
  • the promotion of hygiene and access to safe drinking water.

A strong focus is put on strengthening community-level interventions and platforms by enabling community leaders and nutrition support groups to take the lead in the prevention of malnutrition amongst their children, including through community screening for malnutrition by mothers themselves, stepping up communication and increasing the involvement of community health workers.