Mali: report 2016
April 2016: From Friday 1st April the Reception Centre is open and ready to welcome children. The first to be admitted is Soumeylou who is four and a half months old and so famished that he sucks continuously on his fingers. Following an appropriate nutrition programme, he recovers enough that after three days he is smiling again.
The children follow, one after the other. Adama is two and a half years old, Assalia is seventeen months, Adizétou is one and a half and Boubacar is two years old. There are also seven babies who have all lost their mothers. Moussa is four months old and Koumba is seven months old. Assalia is brought in by her grandmother who is blind and infirm. Adama is the daughter of papa-vélo, twin sister of Hawa who sadly died a few days ago.
The bigger children explore the toys (all rescued from the looters). Boubacar loves the rocking horse. Each child can choose which toy to play with and they are all overwhelmed and so happy.
Our staff is now complete and all operational. Oura is in charge of overall care and supervision of the children. Adama is responsible for the laundry. Koutoum shares the role of night guardian with Safarata who is the nurse. Mariam does the cooking, Abdoulaye is the guard and Daouda and Badra are supervisors.
After a brief update, everyone understands the vital role to be played with the children we are caring for. We must teach them good values and give them the best opportunity to reintegrate with the adult world with the widest possible education. All this must be done while respecting their customs and traditions. Meals are eaten in the African style – sitting in a circle on a mat, eating from one communal dish – rather than in the Western style – sitting at a table.
Three languages are spoken at the Centre – Songhay (the main language in Gao), Tamasheq (spoken by the Touaregs) and French (the national language).
September 2016: The food distributions which happen on a Saturday are always a moment of great joy. They take place in the courtyard of the Reception Centre and everyone receives their fair share of rations for the coming week. Unfortunately, around ten children have had to leave the programme as their families have been forced to flee the insecurities in the region.
We have taken in a new orphan, Hassana, who is six months old. We now have eleven children in the Centre, all of whom have lost their mothers. Those who came in severely malnourished have become lovely, bouncing babies, everyone is doing well. Soumeylou is now ten months old and has started to crawl. Issouf who was so thin is now chubby and healthy.
Our greatest problem is finding and keeping good staff. We are competing with NGO’s who offer fabulous salaries while we can only offer standard Malian levels of salary.
The risk of attack or abduction for westerners is still very high throughout Mali and we must remain prudent.
Despite very heavy rains, the temperature remains exceptionally high, around 40°C or higher. This has never happened before in this region. Pasturelands for the animals have been exhausted and there are dead animals on the ground. Poor households find it very difficult to access the market and are unable to pay for sufficient food which pushes their nutritional situation below the critical threshold. People are forced into petty crime – it’s a question of survival.
Malnutrition wreaks havoc. A desperate father comes to ask for help for his two-week-old twin girls. Their mother has died and the babies are extremely malnourished and emaciated. Despite all our best care and attention both the girls pass away within days of one another. We are deeply upset and profoundly sad. Life goes on, however, in the sounds of childhood that surround everyone in the Centre.