by Emily Sollie
Sochele Banou knows the kind of pain that no parent should ever experience: the pain of watching her child die. Her son Aly, just 3 years old, died of malaria in 2004.
“I didn’t know quickly enough that he had it,” Sochele says. “I tried everything I knew to do but he kept getting worse instead of better.”
When Aly’s fever continued to worsen, she found someone in her village, a remote area in Mali’s Dogon country, to drive them on a motorcycle to the nearest hospital.
“On the trip there my child cried so loudly,” she recalls. “We got to the hospital to see the doctor, but it was too late, there was nothing the doctor could do to help him.”
Today, thanks to the work of the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, other mothers in Sochele’s community are being spared the agony of losing their children. Through LMI, families are learning how to prevent malaria, as well as how to recognize its symptoms so they can seek medical attention as soon as symptoms appear.
And, a key aspect of LMI’s program in Sochele’s village and others in Mali is that it helps pay for treatment. Community members contribute to a community-managed health fund, and if someone in the village needs to go to the doctor, this fund will pay 75 percent of their medical expenses. In one of the world’s poorest countries, a lack of funds often keeps people from seeking much-needed medical care. Knowing that most of the cost is covered means that families go to the doctor sooner than they might otherwise.
“Malaria is not an illness that kills quickly, and if I had known sooner what to do I could have saved my baby,” Sochele says. “Today, since the LMI project, our life in this village is better.”