As you glance around Bamako, Mali, it is easy to be struck by the numerous ways in which it is different from cities in the United States—the women selling bananas off the tops of their heads, the children running barefoot down the road, chasing tires, and the goats standing lazily in the middle of the street chewing on discarded corn. What is harder, and often much more important, is to be reminded of the ways in which it is similar. The cost of health care, for example, is an issue of similar importance in Bamako, New York, Washington, DC, and other cities throughout the world. And while my country, the United States, was fighting a political battle over health care last year, the organization, Mali Health Organizing Project (MHOP), was developing an innovative, community-based solution to children’s health care in several communities in Bamako, Mali. The program, entitled Action for Health, aims to provide free health care for children in Bamako in exchange for “community action” or days of volunteering on part of children’s parents.
As one MHOP volunteer explained, “people want to invest in their children’s health care; they just don’t have the cash.” So MHOP has given them a free alternative. By enrolling in MHOP’s health care program, children are insured against the five leading causes of children’s death in Mali including malnutrition, malaria, and measles. The organization has even gone so far as to develop a monitoring system in which community health workers conduct monthly house visits for children enrolled in the program, using innovative mobile phone technology to track the growth and health of children ages 5 and under.
By working closely with the Malian government’s health services, and collaborating directly with the local community, MHOP has developed an exciting and impactful program that already serves 385 children and 245 women! Although the organization has hopes of expansion, they are grounded in a desire for sustainability that is refreshing and important. The success that the program has experienced after just 4 ½ months of operations can only be seen as a predictor of even greater accomplishments to come!
Alexis is an In-the-Field traveler for GlobalGiving. Follow her and her fellow travelers' adventures at www.itfwa.wordpress.com!
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