One man’s fight against malnutrition in Northern Mali
Malnutrition affects one in three children in Mali. In the northern region of Timbuktu, 12.5 percent of children suffer from malnutrition but the community is fighting back with education.
Along with my colleagues from the World Food Program’s (WFP) sub-office in Timbuktu, I visited Toya health centers, a few kilometers outside the city of Timbuktu. There I saw how community engagement in the fight against malnutrition, alongside WFP efforts in support to the Government, contribute to saving and changing lives.
After initial greetings and a briefing from the head doctor, I visited a group of women gathered to participate in an awareness campaign on the dangers of malnutrition.
As I arrive at the shelter, I am pleasantly surprised to see that the moderator of the day’s session is a man !
Mahamadoun Ahmadou is trained in issues surrounding nutrition, which he talks about to the 50 people present. As a member of the community, he informs mothers about malnutrition and its consequences in both the Sonrhai and French languages.
All of the women listen attentively, asking questions from time to time. Mahamadoun seems every inch the master of his subject — and he can speak from experience.
“My oldest son suffered from malnutrition when he was an infant, it was horrible to see him so sick and fragile,” says Mahamadoun. “We received WFP assistance for his treatment, which saved his life.”
“The doctor said malnutrition could be prevented by following certain good practices. This allowed my second son to be born and grow up in good health because his mother and I took care of that aspect. Seeing this positive effect, I decided to become a community campaigner to help other parents never live the same thing as me.”
We head to the storehouse where supercereals — corn-soy blend — is kept (the fortified food is distributed by WFP to prevent malnutrition).
After explaining the benefits of supercereals and how to prepare it, Mahamadoun begins the cooking demonstration with the help of two of the women present. It can also be a food supplement for children, he says. Mahamadoun also takes the time to ensure his students understand the importance of hygiene when preparing the mixture.
After the session, he answers a variety of questions. When I ask the mothers attending the Community Health Center about the advice of Mahamadoun, many raise their hands. They all testify to Mahamadoun’s services to the community.
A woman called Djenebou comes to me accompanied by her daughter. With a sparkling look and a smile on her face, she says: “I was very surprised to see a man go around my neighborhood to talk about children’s health and malnutrition”.
Djenebou adds: “It’s thanks to Mahamadoun that I came to the center for the screening of my daughter. The doctors told me that I did well to come early and that it will avoid complications. For three months I have received money from WFP to continue attending the health center because I live far away. I cannot tell you how grateful I am.”
For a long time, mothers were solely responsible for their babies’ health. The example of Mahamadoun shows that from now on, men are also involved in the fight against malnutrition.
“We are grateful to receive assistance from partners like WFP, who provide the nutritional products,” says Mahamadoun. However, we are determined not always to reach out and show the partners that, beyond the assistance received, we are taking concrete action to eradicate malnutrition in our village.”
In Mali, WFP supports the Government and communities in addressing malnutrition through a series of activities, namely the prevention and treatment of malnutrition as well as support to caregivers of severely malnourished children.
Despite generous support from the European Union, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Spain and the United States of America, in the coming months WFP may be forced to suspend certain nutrition activities, which will have an impact on the lives of thousands of women and children.