In Mali, every tenth child suffers from acute malnutrition — a rate considered serious by the World Health Organisation. Children who suffer from the severe form of acute malnutrition have grave muscle wasting, very low weight for their height, and are nine times more likely to die in case of disease. Insecurity, disruption of social services, limited access to water and sanitation and childhood diseases are all aggravating the situation.
Bringing life-saving treatments to children in need
In Mali, every tenth child suffers from acute malnutrition — a rate considered serious by the World Health Organisation.
In Mali, the highest rates of acute malnutrition are in the crisis-hit north. But in the central region of Mopti, with insecurity on the rise, disruption of social services is also becoming a reality.
When health agents flee due to insecurity, provision of health care is limited and the provision of life-saving treatment to the most vulnerable children suffering from severe acute malnutrition is put at risk.
Anta Cisse, 40 years old, a mother of 6 children, is at the health centre of Mopti to treat her youngest daughter Belco Diallo, 24 months, from severe acute malnutrition with medical complications.
Belco had diarrhoea, fever and she vomited. When she arrived at the center, she weighed only 4,6 kg — preciously little for a two-year-old child.
Anta made a long hazardous journey to save her sick baby and come at the health centre in Mopti town. “I took the boat from Ouroumoudi. It was about 10 hours,” she remembers.
"It’s difficult for mothers to come here because armed groups do not allow a woman to go on a motorbike with a man. The problem is that most of the time, only men can drive"
Insecurity here hinders access to health care. Anta’s friend Mariam Kanake, a women leader at a rural maternity in Wadiaka, Dialloube explains: “It’s difficult for mothers to come here because armed groups do not allow a woman to go on a motorbike with a man. The problem is that most of the time, only men can drive.”
Dr Ballo explains that qualified health agents have fled places like Ouroumadi and many other parts of Mopti, meaning proper diagnosis and treatment of children like Belco can be comprised. “There is a lack of capacities in community health centres. They shouldn’t have waited two months to send Belco here. They tried to treat her with ready-to-use therapeutic food first but she had medical complications. She could have died. The normal process is to send the child here immediately after the diagnostic.”
Delivering ready-to-use-therapeutic food like high-energy peanut butter paste can save children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This nutrient-rich paste requires no water for preparation or refrigeration and has a two-year shelf life, which makes it easy for families, even in the most difficult environments, to treat children at home.
After a few days at the health centre in Mopti taking therapeutic milk, Belco is getting better. “She’ll probably stay about 6 days here and if she’s better, she will be able to come back home and get treated with ready-to-use therapeutic food,” says Dr. Ballo. “She will be able to get these for free at the community health centre. She will recover.”
UNICEF Mali Nutrition officer in Mopti Seydou Amara Dicko says: “In a context of increasing security and deterioration of health services, UNICEF needs additional funding to prevent and respond to the nutritional emergency.”
“In a context of increasing security and deterioration of health services, UNICEF needs additional funding to prevent and respond to the nutritional emergency.”