Mali Health Organizing Project

Mali Health empowers Sikoro, an impoverished urban community in Mali, West Africa to transform maternal and child health sustainably. We do so by: -Fostering the agency of residents and community structures to mobilize to address community health needs. -Promoting health education, prevention, and early care seeking. -Enhancing financial, geographic, and cultural access to health care for poor families.
Dec 15, 2014

Fear & Pride

Djibril Recoding Patient Information
Djibril Recoding Patient Information

I was afraid.  When I first heard that Ebola had reached my country, I was afraid.  I have worked for Mali Health for four years, so I have better knowledge than most about diseases like this.  While many people in my community didn’t believe (and still don’t) that Ebola existed, I knew different, and I was afraid.  What if I got sick?  What if my family got sick?  My friends?  My neighbors?  Ebola does not discriminate — we were all susceptible, and I knew it.  

So I volunteered.  I have been supervisor to Mali Health’s Community Health Workers for a long time now — I’ve provided guidance and support as they visit the families in Mali Health’s programs, offering education and health monitoring.  But now, I have joined them.  I am a part of this incredible team, visiting people who have come into contact with Ebola patients, monitoring them to make sure that if they have contracted the disease, we can get them treatment and protect others from infection.  I volunteered because fear moved me to action; I could not stand by, letting others charge into the fray.  I have the skills and the knowledge to contribute, and I knew I had to use them.  

In truth, providing education and monitoring to these Contacts is not much different than providing education and monitoring to anyone else enrolled in Action for Health.  We meet, we talk, I run some basic tests, and we make plans for the next time I will visit them.  

The difference, though, is the stigma around Ebola.  Many people still don’t believe in this disease, but those who do hold the same fear that I feel; Ebola is far more deadly than other diseases we face in Mali. When we started this work, the people we monitored resisted — many faced rejection from their families, born of the fear we all were feeling, and the people we monitored thought that we, too, would stigmatize them.  But we’ve taught them otherwise.  It’s true that Ebola is not like other diseases; it is far more dangerous.  But it can be beaten, if we all know how to prevent it and how to treat it.  

I am still afraid, but I’m proud, too.  Proud of my community for being willing to learn how to protect themselves.  Proud of my fellow Health Workers for taking on this dangerous, utterly necessary work.  And I’m proud of you for the compassion you’ve show, for raising your voice and declaring, “I stand with Mali Health, and we can turn the tide of this outbreak.” 

So I say: Thank you.  Thank you for your support yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  You make more of a difference than you realize.  You may sometimes feel distant from the work that we do thousands of miles away.  But know that every time I pull on my gloves before visiting one of my contacts, it’s like you’re right there with me, holding my hand, keeping me safe while I help my community heal.  

With gratitude,

Djibril

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Sep 16, 2014

The Maternity Ward Delivers

Mother and Son - Assa and Yaya
Mother and Son - Assa and Yaya

In August 2013, Mali Health and its partner One Day’s Wages inaugurated a new maternity ward built on the campus of CSCOMSiSou, the clinic that Mali Health helped to build in 2010. This maternity ward provides a safe and private space for expecting women to receive professional peri-natal care from midwives and nurses. In the year since the ward’s opening, we have seen promising improvement in maternal health indicators.

The maternity ward significantly increased the number of beds and health professionals available to help women during delivery. It also provided a space separate from the rest of the clinic, away from patients with contagious illnesses, where women could give birth in privacy. Since the ward’s opening, the number of clinic-based births has risen slightly, and we expect to see that number continue to rise as the ward’s capacity continues to improve.

Critically, prenatal consultations (which are essential to a healthy pregnancy) have also risen since the maternity ward’s inauguration. The number of women who are attending their first, third, and fourth or more consultations, has increased significantly. The ward also offers crucial vaccinations for mothers and newborns, and the rate of vaccinations, too, is rising. The next challenge we aim to tackle is to increase the availability of particular vaccines and the variety and quality of equipment available to the ward’s staff. The most significant improvement is in the rate of family planning consultations – the availability of professional midwives has led many more women to visit the ward to speak with midwives about their options.

Community Health Workers in the Action for Health program meet with over 900 expecting mothers on a regular basis to monitor their health and development. Since the opening of the maternity ward, the health workers also encourage these mothers to seek consultations at the clinic, where they can receive counseling, as well as most of the necessary medications to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

The impact of the maternity ward is perhaps best represented by the story of Assa. One year ago, Assa fell ill and decided to go to CSCOMSiSou, As soon as the clinic's doctor informed her that she was pregnant, the midwives gave Assa helpful advice about her pregnancy and prescribed her the medications she would need at the clinic's newly constructed maternity ward. A Mali Health Community Health Worker ensured that Assa received pre-natal consultations and met with the clinic’s midwives, from whom she received constant support and valuable assistance. In June of 2014, she gave birth to a son, Yaya without any complications or difficulties. Yaya is now a healthy and happy three-month-old boy, and Assa still receives regular visits from Oumou. In her words, “I am so grateful for the support of the clinic’s midwives and my community health worker throughout and after my pregnancy.” She continues to go back to the maternity ward when her son falls ill and for his vaccinations.

Total Births at Clinic
Total Births at Clinic
Family Planning Services at Clinic
Family Planning Services at Clinic

Links:

Jun 17, 2014

Ali, Djeneba, and Our Inclusive Model

Ali at 3!
Ali at 3!

In early 2011, Djeneba, a resident of peri-urban Sikoro, became pregnant. Identified as eligible through a local survey, Djeneba was recruited and enrolled in Mali Health’s Action for Health program. Impoverished and isolated, Djeneba would not have had access to vital health services without the help of our program, but through it, she received counsel, education and monitoring by one of Mali Health’s Community Health Workers, Fanta.

That November, Djeneba gave birth to a healthy boy, Ali. Mali Health continued to monitor and aid Djeneba and Ali after birth – Fanta made frequent home visits and ensured Ali was immunized against the preventable diseases that all too often keep Malian children from reaching their fifth birthday.

Six months after Ali’s birth, Djeneba left Sikoro to spend several months in her family’s rural village. Immediately after she returned, Fanta made a visit to their house to check on mother and child and was met with an alarming sight: Ali had lost significant weight during his time away and exhibited signs of severe malnutrition. Fanta took action immediately, rushing Djeneba and Ali to the closest health center.

Through Action for Health, Ali received lifesaving medical care and access to qualified health workers. He remained in the hospital for 10 days, during which time he regained enough weight to be returned to his mother’s care. Though Ali was no longer in immediate danger, Mali Health’s work was far from over, knowing Ali would continue to require close monitoring to ensure his complete recovery.

Even after his release, Fanta observed that “Ali was so weak initially that he could no longer support the weight of his head.” Neither Djeneba nor her husband had jobs at the time, however, so Ali’s recuperation was in jeopardy. In response, Mali Health provided Djeneba with milk, grains enhanced with vitamins, fish, fruits, and legumes for Ali for the next two months. Fanta continued her close care, sometimes visiting Djeneba every day to check on Ali’s progress.

Today, Ali is 3 years old. He is no longer malnourished and lives a happy and healthy life with his mother in Sikoro. Djeneba is enrolled in our Health Savings program, where she can borrow pooled money for future health expenses or to earn a small income. Mali Health’s Action for Health program has helped 2,000 children like Ali, employing community-based solutions that not only provide for short-term health successes but also long-term improvements in education and care. Mali Health believes that everyone has the right to experience childhood without the looming threat of illness or death. Ali’s mother thanked Mali Health, stating, “I think God has sent Mali Health to help poor persons like us… May God accompany those who fund Mali Health’s activities.” 

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