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HomeAfricaEmpowering Women in Mali's Segou Region: WFP and UN Partners Provide Tools...

Empowering Women in Mali’s Segou Region: WFP and UN Partners Provide Tools for Resilience

Atoumata Nimaga warmly welcomes women with babies tied securely on their backs who are arriving at a local health centre in the central Malian village of Dotembougou on a hot Wednesday afternoon.

Several months ago, Atoumata, a mother of three in her twenties, faced severe hunger that put her unborn child at risk. With the arrival of food assistance provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), she was able to get the nutritious foods needed during her pregnancy.

She is now a local volunteer leader, educating other village women about healthy dietary practices. This is part of a joint programme that WFP is implementing with UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to help families mitigate the effects of climate shocks and humanitarian disasters.

As she delivers nutrition and hygiene messages, other mothers demonstrate how to cook locally fortified porridge made with local millet. This sweet-smelling porridge is then provided to mothers sitting under the health centre’s tin roof.

The joint UN project, implemented in Mali’s conflict-torn Bandiagara and Segou regions, aims to empower more than 38,000 women to tackle the challenges faced by their families through healthy practices and farming initiatives.

WFP Mali Representative and Country Director Eric Perdison acknowledges the importance of this project in recognizing women as a force in various roles such as farmers, entrepreneurs, and members of cooperatives and management committees.

Segou has been affected by intercommunal violence and climate change, leading to food insecurity and malnutrition in the region. Climate change has led to more frequent droughts and intense rains, causing half of Malian families to lack access to nutritious food.

Under-5 children suffering from acute malnutrition exceeds the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold, with 15 percent of under-5s in the Segou region, along with pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, at risk of malnutrition.

In the villages, WFP and FAO support women farmers in obtaining equal access to land, seeds, and agricultural products such as fertilizers. This includes setting up field schools to teach farmers better agro-pastoral practices.

WFP and UNICEF also organize weekly awareness sessions for local women about the benefits of good nutrition, breastfeeding, and hygiene practices in their communities. They also supply local health facilities with equipment, medicine, and training to detect and treat malnutrition.

WFP nutrition expert Aicha Morgaye emphasizes the priority given to interventions integrating nutrition, hygiene, health, and food security to help vulnerable communities.

In Dotembougou, volunteer health leader Atoumata goes door to door to check on women following good practices. “This motivates me to continue making a difference in my community,” she says.

At the Boidie commune health centre in Segou, Dr Aliou Samake has seen positive results from the complementary approach of good hygiene, nutrition, and agricultural support. Nearly all the children treated for moderate-acute malnutrition under the joint UN programme have fully recovered.

In Kamba village, Akoumata Sacko has seen her four children grow strong, partly thanks to good nutrition practices and WFP assistance.

WFP’s food assistance arrived at the right time for Akoumata, providing her with a three-month ration of fortified flour and WFP cash assistance. With the support, she was able to buy seeds to grow beans and feed her children.

With her husband back, the family is united again and able to share nourishing porridge together.

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