Members of the nutrition support group of Oueleni-Fièbala village conduct a screening for malnutrition. Photo credit: USAID Keneya Nieta Activity/URC

Acute malnutrition in children under five years was a significant issue in the Sikasso region in southern Mali in 2018.

In response, the technical director of the Mamissa Health Center – a facility created through the support of 14 villages in the Bougouni health district – partnered with Community Health Association executives to help the villages set up their nutrition support groups. These groups screen children for acute malnutrition, facilitate community treatment of moderate cases, and refer serious cases to a community health center.

“However, a year after they were set up, the nutrition support groups were struggling to fully assume their role in preventing malnutrition in the community,” said Zoumana Konaté, Technical Director of the Mamissa Community Health Center, located in Bougouni Health District.

This struggle was due in part to the ending of supervision and support after the initial training. “This led to a total interruption in nutritional counseling, home visits and nutritional demonstration sessions, and a considerable reduction in malnutrition screening activities,” Konaté said.

Zoumana Konaté, Technical Director of the Mamissa Community Health Center, located in Bougouni Health District Photo credit: USAID Keneya Nieta Activity/URC

The Value of Ongoing Support

With the cessation of malnutrition prevention activities by nutrition support groups, malnutrition among children under five in the Mamissa health area spiked between 2020 and 2021.

In 2021, the Mamissa health area reported 393 cases of moderate acute malnutrition, up from 30 cases in 2020 – more than twice the national rate. The area experienced 154 cases of severe acute malnutrition in 2021 compared to 112 cases in 2020.

In 2021, the USAID Household and Community Health Activity (USAID Keneya Nieta) – implemented by URC – began working to revitalize and strengthen the nutrition support groups’ package of activities to reduce morbidity and mortality related to acute malnutrition. Keneya Nieta re-established the nutrition support groups and began monthly coaching visits with them.

More broadly, USAID Keneya Nieta is addressing acute malnutrition in Mali among vulnerable populations and mobilizing community members to encourage use of essential health services. These include community use of antenatal care, facility-based deliveries, postnatal care, family planning, and immunization services.

Members of the nutrition support group of Kafela village conduct a nutritional demonstration session. Photo credit: USAID Keneya Nieta Activity/URC

Tens of Thousands of Children Screened for Malnutrition

The efforts by Keneya Nieta and the re-established nutrition groups have borne fruit. They achieved notable progress in maternal and child health services and significant strides in reducing rates of malnutrition from 2021 to 2022: moderate acute malnutrition decreased to nine cases and severe acute malnutrition dropped to 51 cases.

Also, the number of children screened has increased significantly, from 279 in 2021 to 1,701 in 2022. Each village where USAID Keneya Nieta operates now hosts an average of two nutritional demonstration sessions per month, showcasing the commitment to enhancing community awareness and nutritional education.

USAID Keneya Nieta collaborates with 3,859 nutrition support groups across Mali to improve maternal, newborn, and child health. Every month, nutritional support groups screen at least 120,000 children for acute malnutrition, and at least 1,600 children are treated for moderate acute malnutrition.