27 February 2018
The best start in life
In Mali, role model mothers are striving to reduce infant mortality and improve child health.
In Mali’s Segou region, one in 20 newborn infants die within their first month of life, one of the highest rates in the world. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable. Through the Mama Yeleen initiative, UNICEF and its partners are supporting and promoting role model mothers, who are playing a key role in providing every child with the best possible start in life.
When women give birth with the support of a skilled health attendant or in a health facility, the odds of survival increase dramatically. At the health center in Baraouéli village in the Ségou region, a midwife proceeds to a health assessment on a newborn infant.
Fatoumata Ouattara lives in Baraouéli village and is a Mama Yeleen. She educates expectant mothers and new parents on the importance of attending prenatal appointments, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, good hygiene and immunizations and other ways of promoting child health.
The Doumbia family are one of many in the village who have benefitted from Fatoumata’s knowledge and support. (Second left) Djénéba, 35, and her husband Mamadou have embraced her advice, giving their two daughters (left) Assitan, 3months, and (right) Sitan, 5, the best start in life.
“I started benefiting from Fatoumata‘s advice during my sixth month of pregnancy”, says Djénéba, holding Assitan. “With her advice, I completed my four prenatal consultations, gave birth at the health center and am completely up-to-date in the vaccination calendar of my last two children.”
During a session with women of childbearing age, Fatoumata stresses the importance of antenatal health visits and giving birth in a health centre. A trained pair of hands can keep a newborn alive — doctors, nurses and midwives provide an enormous range of services during pregnancy, birth and beyond.
In addition to being a Mama Yeleen, Fatoumata is a counsellor at the local community based preschool. Her dual role means that she supports the cognitive development of children both at home and at the preschool, helping children get a fair start in life.
Children draw and colour pictures at the preschool watched by Fatoumata. The Mama Yeelen initiative has helped parents in Baraouéli understand the importance of playing and engaging with their children to support their development.
Attendance at the local health center has increased enormously since the Mama Yeelen initiative was launched, providing hope that every child can survive and thrive.
“I like to share my knowledge with women in my community and help children take their first steps in life,” says a beaming Fatoumata.
Learn more about Every Child ALIVE.