News / Africa

Firewood Fuels Malians Health Care Costs

Multimedia

Audio

In the West African nation of Mali, villagers are cutting firewood to pay their medical bills.  But in an ironic twist that is making their environment more unhealthy.

In the village of Kabe, about 50 kilometers from Mali's capital, Bamako, a community health worker looks over Aseitu Sacko.  She looks in her eyes and palpates her stomach.  The clinic is just a small room with a bed and boxes of medicine stacked in the corner.

Sacko brings her toddler over.  The health worker asks whether he has ever seen a doctor.  Sacko says no.  The boy has kwashiorkor, which means he does not get enough protein in his diet.  The doctor bill is almost $14, while most Malians live on a little over $1.00 a day.

Sacko more often visits a traditional healer who costs a fraction of the price and prescribes herbs.

Walking back home, Sacko says she does not have money to buy good food for herself or her son, so she certainly can not afford to go to the Western-style clinic.

In the neighboring village of Sikoro, Mam Samake also avoids the doctor.  Samake says when her family gets sick, they do not get any medicine because they do not have any money.  She says they just go out and farm like usual.  But one day Samake got so sick with malaria she had to go to a clinic.

She says because she did not have any money to pay the doctor, she walked around her village, going house to house asking other people to lend her money.  Eventually she got what she needed.  Then, Samake says, she had to cut firewood and sell it to pay back the money she borrowed.

Samake says people in Sikoro did not go to school and do not have anything to sell, so to make money they cut firewood.

Fourteen-year-old Siraje Sacko takes a long log of wood from a pile towering over her head and whacks into smaller pieces.

Walking around the village, every household has sticks in large stacks in the yard waiting to be cut or in small tidy bundles tied with bark.

Deforestation

Mali consumes six million tons of wood a year. Villagers say the more wood they cut, the farther they have to walk to find it.

Mam Samake says they used to walk three or four kilometers to find firewood.  Now they have to walk seven kilometers there and back everyday.

The Malian Ministry of the Environment estimates each year the country loses 4,000 square kilometers of forest cover to fuelwood and timber harvesting.

Sahel Eco is a Malian aid group combatting deforestation.  Its executive director, Mary Allen, says the situation could be different. "They could be cutting those trees and earning a good living if there was proper management of those trees and proper management of the fuel wood supply," she said.

In other parts of Mali, Sahel Eco has helped farmers realize that they can make more money by taking care of the trees and selling their fruit and leaves instead of chopping them for fuelwood.

There are also efforts in Sikoro to provide villagers with another way to make money and provide food.

The villagers use big metal watering cans to care for crops at a community garden recently funded by the University of Southern California.  They will use the money they get from selling the vegetables to pay their bills, including doctors' bills.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid