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An African Community Brings Child Mortality Down From 154 to 7 Per 1,000 Live Births

West Africa is implementing a universal health care system for pregnant women and children under 5. These people will get in-home health visits to help reduce childhood mortality.

In one of the world's poorest countries, Mali, in West Africa, pregnant women and children will start to receive in-home doctor's visits. Nana Kadidia Diawara is one of the many nurses involved in the pilot program located in Yirimadio which is close to its capital Bamako. Diawara loves being involved in the program in Yirimadio and she walks the dusty dirty streets and makes her way to different houses. She carries a sack full of medical supplies to help care for the people. She shares that she knows everybody really well and that is why the system works so well. The people trust her and she knows about their lives. She is one of the many health care workers assigned to go around and provide medical help to the people. She is responsible for visiting about 1,000 different homes two times a month. She diagnoses, treats and refers patients. It's part of a free door-to-door health-care plan that began in Yirimadio in 2008 as a trial by the government.

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The pilot program was a trial and after it was complete the team compiled their information and found a significant change in the childhood mortality. A team including researchers from the University of Florida found that child mortality for kids under age 5 in Yirimadio dropped by 95%! The decrease went from 154  per 1,000 live births to  7 per 1,000 live births. Due to the dramatic decrease of child mortality, the program will now be adopted in different countries including Mali. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta announced a target date of 2022 for nationwide coverage which cost about $120 million. Nationwide coverage gave the ability for all pregnant women and children under 5 to receive free health care in all of West Africa. The most important factor in the success of this implementation is making sure that West Africa has access to trained medical staff to provide the necessary help.

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"This is long overdue," says Dr. Eric Buch, a medical doctor and professor of health policy and management at South Africa's University of Pretoria, who was not involved in the study."Free health care for mothers and children under 5 is a very effective way of reducing mortality, and it could have a huge impact." The citizens of the many countries that will benefit from the free health care initiative are very excited and happy. One woman said that she was so happy that the government was willing to do this for its people. "We are trying to make Mali be great again, to improve our health care system and save lives, and we are hoping this will help us reach universal health care with a very powerful, improved system," said Mali's health minister, Samba Ousmane Sow.

What a great start to help the women and children in West Africa. Hopefully, Africa can start seeing their infant mortality rates decrease dramatically throughout all of the countries, much like they say in Yirimadio.

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