Within the context of its emergency intervention in Mali, Terre des hommes (Tdh) have set up a programme centred on development to improve the treatment of sick children. An interview with David Dandrès, Emergency Programs Coordinator, on his return home from Mali.
What is the country’s current situation?
“Even though things are slowly improving, around one in 8 children still die before the age of 5. Yet 70% of these deaths are linked to relatively minor medical conditions (malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory infections and malnutrition). The primary healthcare centres are supposed to know how to treat these run-of-the-mill illnesses, but a combination of factors are preventing them from doing so. Factors like a lack of staff or unpaid and badly-trained personnel, families without the economic means to pay for consultations, medication or transportation, in addition to ruptures in the distribution of medical supplies to pharmacies and unhygienic healthcare centres without water or sanitation services. In 2012, the upheaval of the Malian government, which has since been re-established, in addition to both the agricultural and food crisis, amplified the negative consequences of these continual insufficiencies.”
Why has the work of Tdh proved to be necessary?
“Because there is still a lot more to do. Malnutrition still remains at very alarming levels, even though it is progressively declining, thanks in particular to the efforts of humanitarian actors. Last year we specifically focused on the fight against malnutrition. It was our priority. This year we are also including the treatment of the other common illnesses mentioned. And we are also extending our aid towards additional healthcare centres. In order for humanitarian intervention to bear fruit in the long run – one of Tdh’s commitments – you need not just time, you also need to change poor practices and insist upon reinforcing professional competencies. As well as being at times innovative and creative.”
Tell us about these creative and innovative aspects…
“We will be installing a computer equipped with diagnosis assistant in each centre within the intervention zone so that nurses in these centres, even the most remote and isolated, are able to administer proper treatment in a systematic and controlled manner. In fact, the diagnosis of the illnesses in question can easily be performed by a simple bush nurse by systematically following the official protocol of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI). This method enables the identification of external warning signs through the simple observation of symptoms. By installing this Electronic Consultation Registry – which has already proven its worth in Tdh’s Burkina Faso projects – we want to show that humanitarian aid, development and new technology are neither incompatibles, nor separate from one another.
Today, thanks to partnerships with the European Commission’s Humanitarian Office (ECHO), UNICEF and the Swiss Solidarity, Tdh has been able to continue its support of 34 healthcare centres situated on the border of the North Zone, where fighting and insecurity unfortunately continue to reign.”