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Mali: “I have nothing, it makes me very sad”

Fatuma sits in her home in a village near Diema in the region of Kayes, Mali

“I don’t know how old I am – I know I was born around the time of independence in 1960. I suppose that would make me about 50 years old.”

Fatuma is sitting on the dried-out mud floor of her home in Diema, southern Mali.

Her face is lit up by the bright sunlight pouring through the straw walls.

Knowledge and tradition

So often the elderly are forgotten in crises – yet older people play crucial roles in communities facing disaster.

Many grandparents care for children and often continue to support the family’s income in their old age.

Many of the elderly hold the community’s knowledge and tradition – vital for humanitarian workers to understand the needs, the context and the community.

As Fatuma continues to speak, she confirms this last thought:

“I was born here and have lived all my life here. I have never left this village. This year there is a crisis that started last year. It is always hard here but it’s especially bad this year. I’m very worried.”

Fatuma’s life

“My husband died more than six years ago – I don’t know why, he was sick at the time,” continued Fatuma.

“We had seven children together – five girls and two boys. They are all married now with their own children.

“I have a small garden of henna behind my home. My main activity is looking after this garden as I am too old for anything else now.

“My favourite thing is watering my garden. But last year there was no rain and lots of insects, so this year I haven’t been able to grow anything.

“I recently received 6kg of millet from the government. It wasn’t enough to even last a day but I shared it with my children and their children. If children can eat I am happy but if they go hungry, I’m not happy.

“The village here is big and there are many people to feed. No one has enough. Sharing food is a source of tension in the village – there is not enough to go around and some people aren’t fair and take more than they should.

“I have nothing and it makes me very sad.”

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