Source: WHO Regional Office for Africa |

Meeting the health needs of Malians displaced by security crisis

World Health Organization (WHO), supported by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), is providing medicines and other consumables to the Health Ministry, and helping to upskill health workers on the ground

MÉNAKA, Mali, April 5, 2024/APO Group/ --

Sitting holding her newborn in the courtyard of her home, Aissata*, a displaced person in Ménaka city centre, remembers the day she fell ill while pregnant. "My stomach hurt that day, I was weak and I had no appetite. Worst of all, I had no money and my husband was away," she recalls.

The living conditions of Aissata and her family deteriorated dramatically when they were forced to leave Anderamboukane in 2021, due to security concerns. Now, she is among hundreds of thousands of Malians whose access to quality health care has been negatively impacted by the country’s security crisis.

In 2023, more than 72 500 people were displaced in Mali as a result of clashes between rival armed groups, inter-community conflicts and military operations by the Malian armed forces against non-state armed groups. The regions of Gao, Kidal, Ménaka, Mopti, Taoudénit and Timbuktu are worst impacted, along with certain areas in the south of the country.

The security situation has resulted in shortages of medical staff, with several health institutions no longer operational. In the Menaka region, the situation is exacerbated by a shortage of medicines and medical equipment.

"The crisis has also escalated the number of patients seeking treatment, with the living conditions of displaced and low-income households aggravating promiscuity, » explains Dr Tiangoura Traoré, head doctor in the Menaka district. The district is also struggling with increased incidence of acute respiratory infections, acute malnutrition and associated complications, diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, dermatitis and chronic diseases such as high blood pressure.

To help Mali maintain delivery of quality health services in areas impacted by insecurity, World Health Organization (WHO), supported by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), is providing medicines and other consumables to the Health Ministry, and helping to upskill health workers on the ground. WHO is also supporting mobile clinics to reach isolated populations in the centre of Menaka and the two districts worst impacted by the insecurity, Tidermane and Anderamboukane.

Between July 2022 and January 2023, WHO provided vital medical and nutritional assistance to almost 75 000 people affected by the humanitarian crisis in the Menaka region. Working with partners, the organisation provided critical health and nutritional assistance to almost 4000 children under the age of five, referred 1034 malnourished children to appropriate treatment units, and supplied paediatric medicines and equipment for around 500 children.

WHO also supported awareness-raising sessions on good nutritional practices and infant feeding for almost 1400 pregnant or breast-feeding women, and trained 67 community support facilitators, 13 health workers in the management of severe acute malnutrition, and 123 humanitarian workers in psychological first aid.

"WHO's support is helping to improve access to free health care for the population. The staff are motivated and available, and care is being made accessible to people in remote areas via the mobile teams," Dr Traoré adds.

CERF support enabled WHO to initiate a large-scale, coordinated multisectoral response to this humanitarian crisis, in order to meet the growing health needs of affected populations in the Menaka region.

« WHO's reinforced presence on the ground symbolises much more than the delivery of medical equipment. It is an ongoing commitment to the health of displaced people and host communities," says Dr Christian Itama, WHO Representative in Mali. "It is also a pledge of continued support to ensure access to desperately needed essential health services by these vulnerable people. »

Mohamed Toure was among those who underwent training in epidemiological surveillance, rumour management and psychological support. Along with conducting active research, passive surveillance, data collection and rapid detection of incidents of side-effects following vaccination, Toure is also equipped to offer psychological support. "My role is to provide relief to survivors while helping to reduce their fear and stress, so that they can access health care with confidence and remain in good health," he explains. 

Ongoing health assistance is continuing to ensure free access to quality health care and improved health of IDPs and the host population.

Thanks to the mobile clinics, Aissata was able to receive the care she needed. "A friend told me about the free care provided by health workers who come in a vehicle. I was also given free medicines. »

She was monitored throughout her pregnancy, which saved her life and that of her baby. « If it wasn't for the free consultation that day, I don’t know what I would have done, » the young mother says.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.