In Bamako, Mali the Falhadie IDP Camp is home to over 1,000 IDPs who fled the violence in Central Mali. Over half of them are children. They are living under the most deplorable conditions. Their community is on an active garbage dump, adjacent to the livestock market. The smell from the market is horrible and the animal waste creates a breeding ground for disease. They are suffering from food insecurity, but growing food on this site would pose a great health hazard. The garbage at the dump is always being burned in an attempt to create more space. The fumes from the burning garbage are toxic, causing many in the community to suffer from upper respiratory illness. Although the government wants them relocated, their attempts have been unsuccessful. This is primarily due to the lack of advance planning of a comprehensive resettlement program.
Falhadie community leaders have asked ATEG to intervene on behalf of these IDPs. We initiated our intervention by running a series of Focus Groups to ensure we had community buy-in. It was essential for us to learn why previous attempts at relocation had failed. These sessions revealed that they were anxious to move, but their new home had to be close enough to the livestock market so that the animal traders could continue their trade. They were also interested in relocating to arable land and having us develop an agriculture plan so they could gain food security and sell surplus crops as a source of income. ATEG has formed a team of agricultural and livestock experts, including some of the world’s greatest authorities on the subject of food insecurity.
ATEG has been in conversation with the Mayors and Prefects of a number of cities, all a very short distance from Bamako, about leasing a parcel of arable land for development. It appears that we have a tentative agreement from Mountougoula Commune, a city about 12 km from Bamako. Because of the enormity of the entire project, we will begin with a pilot project that will include relocating a limited number of families. We will dig wells, install latrines, build mud huts and cultivate the land. Before we begin any of the physical work, we intend to run a public relations campaign in the host community so that they understand how they will all benefit by welcoming the Falhadie IDPs. We expect that our pilot project will establish proof of concept. At that point we will proceed to Phase 2, which is the relocation of the entire IDP camp.
As part of the ATEG program to limit the spread of Covid-19 among the street children of Bamako, Mali, we donated 33 portable hand wash stations. We distributed them to schools, facilities that shelter abandoned children, and IDP Camps. During this process, the Falhadie IDP Camp reached out to us seeking help with severe food insecurity at their camp.
The Falhadie Camp is home to 1,000 IDPs who fled the violence in Northern and Central Mali. Over half of them are children. They are living under the most deplorable conditions. The site was built on an active garbage dump, next to the livestock market. The small from the market is horrible and the garbage at the dump is always being burned in an attempt to create more space. The fumes from the burning garbage are toxic, causing many in the community to suffer from upper respiratory illness. To add to their suffering, the government has no social safety net, and they have no reliable source for food.
In response to their outreach, ATEG has formed a team of agricultural and livestock experts, including some of the world’s greatest authorities on the subject of food insecurity. We initiated our intervention by ensuring we had community buy-in. We ran a series of gender specific Focus Groups. There were groups were participation was limited to only women, others for men only, and some were mixed groups. We are analyzing the data from this input and will be developing a plan. The community understands that aid is not a permanent answer, and their long term survival is dependent on them achieving a sustainable solution. Together we will work towards establishing food security and economic independence through community led programs for agricultural and livestock. We are also exploring the possibility of relocating the community to a more environmentally friendly site.
Instructing the street children about hand washing
As we all focus on the impact on our individual communities and on our nation, we must also be mindful that this is a global event. We all share this tiny little planet and all share a common humanity, As global citizens we are all connected to our brothers and sisters around the world. When disaster strikes their lives, the ripple effect may soon wind up on our shores. Before this, who ever heard of Wuhan, China?
As Covid-19 spreads to Africa, Arts To End Genocide (ATEG) is committed to helping our friends in Mali stay safe. We understand the importance of preventing their fragile healthcare systems from getting overwhelmed. Therefore it is essential for them to follow the same preventative guidelines that we have implemented in the U.S.
In the U.S. we have all learned the importance of hand washing. For the street children of Bamako this is not an easy matter. The only water that is accessible to them is contaminated river water. So ATEG has established a series of hand washing stations, which are available to the children and the community. At the clinic, which is in the heart of the City of Children District, we have installed permanent hand washing sinks on the exterior of the building. They are operated by foot pedals and are supplied with bars of soap. The clinic’s medical staff is educating the children on the importance of hand washing, social distancing and proper hygiene. ATEG has also purchased and is distributing mobile hand washing stations to schools, facilities that shelter abandoned children and to the IPD camps. These units hold 100 liters of clean water and are in wide use throughout Africa as part of the USAID WASH program. These units and our clinic sinks are also a source of clean drinking water for the children.
Another preventative step we have taken is producing face masks. Over the past few years ATEG has trained a group of women how to make shoes for their barefoot children. We are now employing these ladies to make face masks, which are all donated to the community.
Maybe these seem like small steps in light of the magnitude of this crisis. But Mali is the world’s fifth poorest country and receives very little help. We at ATEG are committed to helping the children of Mali survive this crisis. Although we are all focused on our own communities and nation, it is also important to remember that until this pandemic is totally defeated globally, there is always the chance it will return to our shores.
Escalating violence in Northern Mali caused by armed forces allied to Al-Qaeda, have sparked a humanitarian crisis. 3.9 million people are in desperate need of assistance and protection. The number of internally displaced people have jumped from around 80,000 to nearly 200,000 in one year, with more than one half being children and women.
Many of the refugees have fled to Bamako in Southern Mali, where they are living in IDP camps under terrible living conditions. Some of these camps have been set up in landfills. Children play among the rubbish, which is always being burned. Toxic fumes from the burning rubbish are causing serious illness and death among the children. Our Bamako clinic is responding to this crisis by sending our physicians and nurses to treat these displaced children.
In addition to bringing life saving care to these refugees, we continue with the clinic’s core mission, which is to deliver quality medical care to the 6,000 street children of Bamako. We are treating children at the clinic, on the streets and at facilities that house poor and abandoned children.
The City of Children’s Clinic of Mali continues to bring life saving medical care to Bamako’s 6,000 street children of Bamako. We have expanded our program to treat the most prevalent diseases that we encounter among the population we serve. Every month we are providing anti malarial medication and antibiotics. In the past few months, the physicians have saved the lives of 10 children suffering from acute malaria.
We are continuing to explore the most efficient method for providing showers to the children as a resource for clean water for bathing and drinking. This should significantly reduce the number of cases we see of water borne diseases.
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