Mali

Nursing children back to health in Mali

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Across West Africa, climate change is increasingly being identified as a significant - if not the main - cause of the frequent major humanitarian crises which result from floods, drought, food insecurity and conflict.

One year-old Souleymane was so weak when he arrived at the DFID-supported nutrition unit at Gao's regional hospital in eastern Mali, he was barely able to hold his head up.

He was severely malnourished, weighing a third less than the normal weight for his height, and was suffering from diarrhoea.

"I've been walking for days," said his mother, Aissa. "Souleymane became very weak and I was very worried.

"My husband is a farmer but this year the rains have been late. We planted rice seedlings, but they had not yet germinated when the Niger River flooded.

"It's the fish that are eating all the grains in the water now."

Recent failed rains in Gao have made the widespread hunger that is common each year during the pre-harvest period worse.

With food supplies already depleted, farmers are unable to plant their crops, depriving families like Aissa's of their only source of income and putting them more at risk of hunger.

Young children like Souleymane are the most vulnerable to malnutrition.

On arrival at the hospital, he was immediately put on a therapeutic foods programme by the paediatric team, who work in partnership with Action Against Hunger.

Over 16,500 people in eastern Mali are benefiting from the programme, which treats acutely malnourished children, provides nutritional support for at-risk children and distributes food rations to the most vulnerable families.

Souleymane will gradually recover his strength over the next few weeks by eating a ready-to-use food known as 'Plumpy Nut'.

Aissa will receive food rations consisting of millet and oil to guarantee a minimal nutritional intake in the family.

"Souleymane has already gained weight over the past few days." she says. "He's recovering. From now on, I'm sure things will get better."

Through its support to aid agencies such as Action Against Hunger, DFID is helping to prevent a major nutritional crisis in the Gao region.

Key Facts

- DFID is providing =A3365,000 to Action Against Hunger's emergency intervention in Gao in eastern Mali. The project is financed by DFID's West Africa Humanitarian Response Fund (WAHRF), which funds rapid responses to emergencies and humanitarian crises across the West Africa region.

- A recent survey carried out by Action Against Hunger in Gao found that 15.9% of children under five have moderate or severe acute malnutrition.

- Livestock farming remains one of the main sources of income for the people of this area. Over 80% of households are involved in livestock farming for their livelihoods. Its failure can dangerously jeopardize the food safety of households, even if agriculture is successful.

- The current period of drought has already started to impact on the nutritional intake of a significant proportion of the population, particularly children under 5 years old.

- The DFID-funded project will aim to support 2,703 families; 1,376 children under 36 months old and 1,634 children with acute malnutrition under 5 years of age (in total approx: 16,500 individuals)