Hawa: “On my first day here, I saved a child’s life.”

As more women are empowered to become community health workers, they can help an entire generation grow up strong.

A few years ago, baby Musa fell very ill. No one in his village of Kourougue in Mali recognized his symptoms. His mother, Many, didn’t know how to help him. Without treatment, Musa got worse. His parents had no choice but to bring him to a health center – a two-hour journey on foot.

Once at the health center, Musa was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition – a case so advanced that his parents had to rush Musa to an Action Against Hunger inpatient facility. Many stayed with her son while he was treated at the hospital for more than two weeks. Meanwhile, she wasn’t able to work or care for the rest of her family.

Musa is now a healthy four-year-old, but a similar fate nearly befell Musa’s younger sister, Fatumata, a few months ago. Thankfully, this time, a woman named Hawa Coulibaly was there to intervene earlier.

Hawa, a community health worker trained by Action Against Hunger, was walking through the village and spotted Fatumata. Identifying the signs of malnutrition, she asked Many to bring the little girl to the clinic she operated right in their village. Hawa diagnosed Fatumata with severe acute malnutrition and prescribed a three-week course of treatment. With Hawa’s guidance, Many provided therapeutic food for her daughter, at home, until she made a full recovery.

“Before Hawa, we were living in darkness,” says Many. Since she has come in Kourougue, she says, children are healthier and mothers are happier.

“On my first day here, I saved a child’s life,” recalls Hawa. “If a child is healed, then I am happy. I could do another job, but not like this. Why would I want to? I love this so much.”

Before Hawa’s arrival in Kourougue, malnutrition was believed to be a sign of the devil and, out of desperation, many families would turn to ineffective traditional remedies. Hawa has taught parents how to spot the signs of malnutrition and other diseases and shows them how to keep their children healthy.

By going from mother to mother, home to home, women like Hawa are reaching more children with care and treatment than ever before.

“Mothers thank me,” says Hawa, proudly. “This treatment heals their children.”


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