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.
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