The precarious situation facing these children is partly eased through the work of the Mobile Support Team during patrols which allow them to provide daily meals, medical care and psychosocial support. Fondation Mérieux medical director, Dr Christophe Longuet, recently participated in one of Bamako emergence social service’s night patrols, directed by Dr Françoise Marquis.
"The patrol team tonight includes Dr Aly Fofana, the medical coordinator, Kadidia, a social teacher, and Tata, the driver. Before the round, the team meets to decide the priority sites to visit and identify emergency situations. The medical kit is checked: antibiotics, antimalarial drugs, analgesics and antipyretics as well as dressings and antiseptic, they’re all there. Tonight we’re going to Niamana, Amandines and Les Halles.
As we arrive on site, children, until then invisible, come up to the van and wait patiently for ‘moni’, porridge made from boiled millet and sugary water. When the forty or so rations are all given out, children who haven’t received any don’t complain. It will be their turn tomorrow. On special days there are sandwiches. Kandidia is talking with a small group, simply listening to them; Dr Aly, a comforting father figure, takes some of them to one side: the youngest and therefore the most vulnerable. Massan Bah is 13. On the streets for 3 years, he has been hospitalized twice for serious bouts of malaria, requiring extensive medical attention. Siriman Dembelé is 10. His father is a farmer 20km from Bamako, his mother a market seller. Siriman Dembelé prefers to live on the capital’s streets than stay with the Koranic leader his father entrusted with him, but who mistreated him.
Aly bandages a nasty wound on Siriman Dembélé’s leg. The patrol finishes around midnight by Les Halles, behind the great mosque. Youths dance around a cassette radio, sniffing glue. Here, without the vigilance of the emergency social service team, the situation could quickly become uncontrollable. A teenager receives some ciprofloxacin and condoms for burning during urination. A young girl of 14, with a baby of several months on her back, also comes to pick up some condoms.
For me, the patrol is finished, full of encounters and emotion. It will continue every day and every night for the emergency social service team and its teams of seasoned professionals, willing to help the street children."
The children’s first names have been changed to protect their anonymity.