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.
Mar 15, 2011

Meet Our Families

On March 1st, Action for Health celebrated its one-year anniversary. Over the last twelve months, our community health worker team has made over 13,000 preventive home visits and supervised nearly 800 clinic visits to treat sick children. With half a dozen health actions, families have contributed over 1,000 hours of community service to improving the health of Sikoro as a whole.

Beyond the numbers, the impact can be seen by the families themselves. Oumou Niare, a 38 year old Sikoro community member, sells condiments on the side of the road while her husband works as a carpenter. Customers are scarce, and neither job provides a reliable income for the family. Last year Oumou enrolled her two children in Action for Health because she didn’t have the financial means to take care of their health.

Since joining, Oumou has learned a lot about preventive care from the community health workers, who have worked with her one on one to cover topics ranging from vaccinations to mosquito nets that can protect her children. Thanks to these health lessons she has learned, Oumou says her children now have fewer problems with diarrhea and vomiting.

At the same time she’s thankful to know that when her children do fall ill, can get the medical care they need. In her own words “Now I don’t have to leave my sick baby at home because of lack of money. The program helps me to cure my babies and I can also give back to the community.” Knowing that the cost of care is covered, Oumou now takes her children to the clinic when they first become sick, rather than have to spend several days scraping together funds for the visit from friends and family.

Oumou also feels the program is innovative because of the health actions. From malnutrition awareness days to community clean-ups, Oumou is proud to know that she is participating in activities that benefit the community as a whole, helping to prevent illness among other families and create a healthy environment for children across Sikoro. She hopes to see the program expand to include more families in the years to come.

As we prepare to double the number of children enrolled in Action for Health, it is heartening to move beyond the numbers and hear stories of change like Oumou’s. This coming year we look forward to not only supporting more families, but also deepening the community service impact with our new action training curriculum. We look forward to keeping you up to date as the program progresses!

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Jan 27, 2011

Cleaning for a Healthier Community

Women in Sikoro sweeping the trash
Women in Sikoro sweeping the trash

With the start of the New Year fresh in our minds, MHOP hit the ground running with a trash clean-up day this past week as part of our Action for Health program. As you may recall, families enrolled in the program receive free primary care for children under the age of 5 in exchange for participating in “health actions,” or events designed to give back to the community. On January 9th, Action for Health families came together to sweep the trash that littered the roads around their homes.

Since the founding of MHOP, community members have identified sanitation as a top priority. While in the US we benefit from government-run trash services, there are no such programs in Sikoro. With the introduction of plastic and population growth fueled by immigration from rural areas, waste management has risen as a serious concern in terms of public health as well as community pride. In Sikoro, trash often accumulates very quickly because informal donkey-cart trash collectors have no place to leave it in the interim for larger trucks to come and transport it to the city dumps. Trash eventually collects in the streets, which breeds disease and other health problems in the community. This past Health Action day, three trash clean ups took place in three different Sikoro neighborhoods. Community Health Workers from each neighborhood took the lead on coordinating the event and rallied the families together around 8am. Women came out with their brooms and swept the trash off to the side of the road, while others used shovels to wade through the waste. Later, a dump truck arrived to collect the trash that was gathered together and transported it to the city dump.

It was energizing to see that Sikoro residents chose to address such a pressing challenge in the community with continued vigor and vision. As MHOP’s Community Mobilization Coordinator Dramane Diarra remarks, trash clean-up days are significant events that motivate the community to action: “[The day] shows what they should do [to address sanitation], not just for themselves, but for the community as a whole.” Last year, residents organized two trash clean-up days as Health Actions for Action for Health, and a recent clean up of a local stream has added to the impact of their work. Through the active participation of the community, the event marked the fifth Health Action since Action for Health launched last year. It was exciting to see the actions taking place and serving as a catalyst for community mobilization around health.  It looks to be a promising start for a New Year! Thanks to our supporters we are seeing Action for Health progress on all fronts and look forward to keeping you up to date with our latest news from Sikoro.

Community Health Workers Moustapha and Diba
Community Health Workers Moustapha and Diba

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Oct 27, 2010

Action for Health Eight Months In

Sifting flour at the malnutrition training
Sifting flour at the malnutrition training

We’d like to send out a big thank you to all of you who joined in supporting MHOP during Global Giving’s matching campaign. If you missed it, you can still donate by October 31st and have your donation matched by 50% by MHOP's own private donors!

As for our work on the ground, Action for Health turns eight months old on November 1st! It’s hard to believe that it has been that long but we’ve accomplished a lot.  We’ve been enrolling a lot of new babies in the program: we are now serving 398 children and 251 mothers.  That’s even before the expansion we will begin in 2011!  As I’ve mentioned before, Action for Health is a complicated program with a lot of moving pieces. It feels like with six months of experience behind us, we have finally gotten all these different pieces into place, which is great news.

Action for Health is based on the premise that community service can be a means of payment for free care.  We hope that when families participate in community service actions, they will mobilize around their own health, while also improving living and health conditions for the neighborhood.  Our goal for the future is to engage families in at least one community service “Action Fee” per month, and so far we’ve organized four. 

Trash and sanitation is a huge problem in Sikoro, especially because there is no transit site where small donkey-cart trash collectors can leave the trash to wait for larger trucks to take it to the city dumps.  The constant presence of trash and the difficulty of getting rid of it  are issues that really attract the attention and energy of Sikoro residents.  For that reason, our first Action Fees were trash clean-up days.  We organized two in May, one at an unofficial transit site and one near the school in Sourakabougou.  People were really pleased to see (and smell!) the cleaned up areas.

As the program moved forward, we realized that there was a serious lack of treatment and follow-up care for malnourished children.  Officially, the government has committed to provide Plumpy’Nut, a nutritional supplement, for free to all malnourished children. Many of our Community Health Workers (CHWs) were finding that they would measure children as falling in the yellow zone of their nutrition status arm-bands, but were not receiving care at local clinics for a variety of reasons. In addition to this problem, we were constantly reminded that clinical treatment for malnutrition cannot prevent the problem in the first place. The CHWs thought that the most important thing was to make sure that the mothers knew how to cook the calorie-rich, nutritious foods that keep children healthy and help malnourished children gain weight quickly.  So we held a malnutrition education day in which the CHWs trained the women to make enriched porridge (millet, bean, fine millet, wheat, rice, and corn flower) and a high calorie milk paste. Twenty mothers of malnourished children attended and each left with a kilo of porridge ingredients and a kilo of milk paste.  In November, these same women will serve as peer educators to the other women in the program, teaching them the same techniques. 

Our last action was proposed by the target families.  They reminded the CHW’s that the tree planting season in Mali is in August and September and suggested that the project put together a tree planting day.  Several families bought trees and protective fences themselves, while others who weren’t able to afford it contributed about $1 to help MHOP buy the trees.  26 trees were planted in the zones of Sikoro where the target families live. 

Thanks to our supporters we are seeing Action for Health progress on all fronts, and are particularly excited to watch the actions grow. Our goal is for the actions to serve as a catalyst for community mobilization around health that will expand beyond the scope of MHOP and our projects. The fact that the families’ and the CHWs’ are already taking initiative towards choosing and organizing the actions is really promising.  There is great potential in peer education and we’ll be sure to send you an update in the coming months on how our first peer- nutrition education session goes.

Making the malnutrition supplements
Making the malnutrition supplements
Reaping the rewards!
Reaping the rewards!

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