Jade Wright in Mali
Special Report by Jade Wright, in Mali
ADA Guido walked 12 miles to the nearest hospital in the blistering hot sun, cradling her desperately ill toddler. It would be an extraordinary feat of endurance and love, before you consider that she’s nine months pregnant, and painfully malnourished herself.
As she rushed little Mody to this children’s hospital in Bandiagara, in the African republic of Mali, he clung to life, refusing to let go.
And now, thanks to round the clock care, her two-year-old son is growing stronger and Ada can begin to prepare for the arrival of her next baby, due any day.
“I came here as quickly as I could,” explains Ada, 35, from the ward she shares with six other mums and their desperately ill children. “My husband had to stay behind and look after the rest of the family.”
And if this hospital wasn’t here? Her eyes fall to the floor, and she hugs Mody closer.
“If there was no hospital here we would have had to give him to God,” she says, quietly. “He would not be with us now.”
As we talk, Sidi Sangare, the young community doctor monitors the children’s weight and measures the circumference of their left upper arms.
Some are worryingly quiet and clearly ill, others playful.
“We’ve given Mody milk, antibiotics, vitamins and worming tablets,” explains Dr Sangare. “And of course, Plumpynut.”
Plumpynut is the sachets of concentrated vitamins and sugars normally only given out during civil wars and disaster relief.
But Mody is not the victim of a war or an act of God. His misery is caused by something much more easily preventable – the climate change in which we all play a part.
Like millions of children around the world, he is hungry because the climate has turned. The carbon dioxide that developed countries belch out has made the sun that scorches his emaciated limbs hotter, and dried out the land so that there isn’t enough for him to eat.
Over the last 10 years the annual rains in Mali, like the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, have become less and less reliable.
Land that could once yield crops now lies barren. Without rain, nothing will grow. Cereals wither in the fields, and livestock cannot survive.
Hunger leaves children more open to diseases, like TB and malaria, so Ada’s story is far from rare.
But despite warnings by climate scientists, the developed nations have been slow to act. Next month, the world’s most important environment ministers and officials will meet in Copenhagen for the UN climate conference to thrash out a successor to the Kyoto protocol.
Meanwhile, in Mali, the Sahara desert creeps ever closer, gobbling up what was once fertile farmland. In an area where daytime temperatures top 40c (104F), life was already perched on a knife edge.
Now it looks sure to topple unless some kind of environmental rescue plan is brokered.
This hospital is being helped by a humanitarian project run by charity Actions de Promotion Humaine, in partnership with Christian Aid. Thanks to them there is some hope in an otherwise bleak situation.
In the next ward, I meet Amadou Dolo. She comes from Yawakanda, a small village way up on the Dogon plateau, one of the areas worst affected by drought.
She proudly shows me her two tiny children – a girl, born two days ago, and her frail two-year old son, Adama.
Amadou rushed Adama to Dr Sangare on the back of a borrowed motorbike last month, fearing he had malaria. Again, she was due to give birth any day, but somehow found the strength to bring him to the people who could save his young life.