Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities: Revolutionizing the Fight Against Hunger in Mali

When a local health post was established in her community, life changed for Namusa Nomoga, mom of four in Mali.
Namusa Nomoga, her son Samakoun and Kindiaba Sidibe, the community health worker smile as Kindiaba monitors Samakoun’s mid-upper-arm circumference, a simple way to assess whether a child is suffering from malnutrition. Photo: B.Stevens/i-Images for Action Against Hunger, Mali.
Namusa Nomoga, her son Samakoun and Kindiaba Sidibe, the community health worker smile as Kindiaba monitors Samakoun’s mid-upper-arm circumference, a simple way to assess whether a child is suffering from malnutrition. Photo: B.Stevens/i-Images for Action Against Hunger, Mali.

Namusa Nomoga, mother of four children in southwestern Mali, grows lettuce, tomatoes and onions in her little vegetable garden. Her husband works as a seasonal farmer. 

A few months ago, her son, two-year-old Samakoun, suffered from life-threatening malnutrition. “I noticed that something was wrong with Samakoun when he developed a temperature. He was very hot. He wasn’t able to keep his food down and then he stopped eating altogether. He usually smiles a lot and he likes to play, but suddenly he became very weak.”

“As a mom, you worry about your children. When they’re sick, your mind cannot be at ease until they are better again,” says Namusa. She took Samakoun to a local health post, established by the innocent foundation and Action Against Hunger.

“Kindiaba, the local health worker who moved to our village a few months ago, weighed and measured Samakoun, and took his temperature. She told me that he was ill with undernutrition and that he needed special treatment. She asked me to feed him Ticadekeni [a ready-to-use therapeutic food used to treat malnourished children] and to come back for follow-up treatment once a week. After just a few weeks, Samakoun had recovered.”

WHEN HEALTH CARE IS TOO FAR AWAY TO SAVE CHILDREN


Namusa and Kindiaba measure Samakoun at the local health station.
Photo: B.Stevens/i-Images for Action Against Hunger, Mali.

“It used to be very difficult for families here to access health care,” explains Kindiaba Sidibe, who was deployed to Namusa’s village to provide children with access to basic healthcare. “The national health structure exists, but at a community level, many people cannot access treatment for their children when they fall ill.”

Together with the innocent foundation, Action Against Hunger is revolutionizing how malnourished children are diagnosed and treated within their communities, paving the way for health workers to reach all malnourished children, no matter where they live.
By empowering community health workers to diagnose and treat children at home—instead of asking parents to walk as many as 25 miles to the nearest health clinic for treatment—we are tackling hunger and malnutrition head on.

Action Against Hunger’s program aims to empower community health workers not only to help save lives, but also to partner with mothers like Namusa and other caregivers to spot the warning signs of malnutrition and get early treatment to prevent children from becoming seriously ill in the first place.

“Before Kindiaba arrived, we had to walk for many hours to get to Tambaga [where the nearest health center is located] to seek treatment for our children when they were ill,” says Samakoun. “It’s really far and it meant we had to leave children behind for a long time. Even when we managed to go there, we still weren’t able to prepare a meal for our other children or fetch water from the well to water our garden.”

LIFE-CHANGING RESULTS


Kindiaba feeds Samakoun with ready-to-use therapeutic food, a treatment used to nurse malnourished children back to health.
Photo: B.Stevens/i-Images for Action Against Hunger, Mali.

The results from our groundbreaking research project promise to be a gamechanger in the fight against child hunger. The initial findings from our study are very promising: in the villages where we implemented the program, community health workers were able to double the number of children who received treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

“After one year of implementation, we’ve found that there is massive engagement with the project within local communities. People have welcomed the health workers and there’s been great demand for their services,” explains Franck Ale, who coordinates the project for Action Against Hunger and the innocent foundation. “We’ve found that there’s been a significant increase in the number of children who are accessing treatment and survive.”

For mothers like Namusa, the project has changed her family’s life already: “I want my children to move forward. My dream is for him to be able to study and do well in life. The arrival of the health team has made a huge difference to our community. Children in the village no longer die from disease. They recover when they’re ill. And I feel more at ease. I’m less worried for my children now.”

Read more stories about how our partnerships with communities are helping us win the fight against hunger in Mali:

Mobilizing Communities to Improve Nutrition in Mali

Fathers Against Hunger in Mali: All Parents Should See Their Children Survive

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About Action Against Hunger USA

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Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization that takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger. We save the lives of malnourished children. We ensure families can access clean water, food, training, and health care. We enable entire communities to be free from hunger. 

Tags: Mali , Nutrition