Jul 31, 2020

Update: COVID-19 in Mali

The presence of the novel coronavirus in Mali was first established when two individuals returning from Europe tested positive in early March. Shortly thereafter, on March 18th, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita suspended flights from affected countries, closed schools and banned large public gatherings. However, planned elections, which had already been postponed several times due to the country’s poor security situation, went ahead as planned throughout the months of March–April.

On July 5th, 2020 the Malian Ministry of Health and Social Affairs published press release N° 125 reporting its latest findings regarding the prevention, monitoring, and response actions to the Coronavirus disease. The press release reported 2,330 confirmed cases of COVID-19. In addition, the Ministry noted that from 700 tested samples, health services recorded 27 new cases of COVID-19 in the country, 1 death during the last 24 hours, and 11 patients in recovery. 

This week’s report, which can be found on the national Ministry of Health and Social Affairs (Ministère de la Santé et des Affaires Sociales) website, reports 1,200 total samples taken throughout the country. Since the Ministry’s July 5th press release, the weekly report informs of 144 confirmed cases and 13 deaths. Since the beginning of the month to present day, Mali now reports 2,522 positive cases of COVID-19, 124 deaths, 1,931 recovered individuals, and the daily monitoring of 1,486 individuals exposed to the coronavirus. Though these numbers might not seem alarming when compared to countries with larger populations, when broken down to a daily measurement, Mali is identifying 4 new positive cases per day.

These numbers are particularly concerning when taking into account that only a few designated community health centers throughout the country have been equipped to screen and test for the virus, the lack of sufficient protective equipment and supplies such as masks and disinfectant within health facilities, the current political turmoil that has sparked civil unrest throughout the country, and a large portion of the population being unaware or misinformed regarding the transmission of and safety measures against COVID-19. Furthermore, despite the growing cases of COVID-19, the Malian government announced the resumption of commercial air travel effective July 25th, and the reopening of land borders to passenger traffic on July 31st. 

It is important to stress that this pandemic is everyone's concern. As the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Head of MINUSMA, emphasized, “Without concerted efforts and unfailing solidarity, no country will succeed in eradicating the virus.”  It is with this mindset and this spirit of fraternity that GAIA VF stands alongside the people of Mali to ensure that, with your support, together we can strengthen prevention awareness and provide the necessary medical supplies to our Malian family.

Donations to GAIA VF made through GlobalGiving will go directly to purchasing PPE and other essential supplies for Hope Center Clinic that will keep patients and staff as safe as possible. Thank you for your support to GAIA VF!

Jul 28, 2020

COVID-19 and HPV Vaccine Lessons

The number of COVID-19 cases in Mali has surpassed 2,500 by Friday, July 24th. The rate of spread has slowed in comparison to March/April and many other countries around the world. Nevertheless, the world continues to anticipate a COVID-19 vaccine. As we are all well aware by now, a slowed rate of spread does not mean a return to life-as-usual.

In a recent report on OncLive, Dr. Markman comments on the approval of an HPV vaccine to specifically protect against oropharyngeal, head, and neck cancers in the United States. This is promising for a number of reasons. Like the existing HPV vaccine, this new vaccine has potential to prevent cancer cases and deaths. In coming years and after its initial implementation, it could hopefully be expanded to more communities around the world.

Despite this good news, Dr. Markman expresses cause for concern: growing anti-vaccine sentiment, lack of faith in vaccines, and worries about potential distribution. These same concerns, of course, apply to the future COVID-19 vaccine whenever it becomes available to humans. As empathetic global citizens and as people interested in science and public health, it is imperative that we circulate what information we can to encourage others who have access to take advantage of these opportunities.

At GAIA VF, we are continuing to educate about the current HPV vaccine and cervical cancer and continue distributing the vaccine when/where we can. The World Health Organization and UNICEF have already warned of declining vaccination rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are doing all we can to continue protecting people against HPV and cervical cancer, while taking current COVID-19 circumstances into account.

Your contribution will go a long way in terms of providing cervical cancer screenings and HPV vaccines. During this stressful and unprecedented time, it is essential to not lose sight of our long-term goals, and for this very reason GAIA is staying firmly committed to HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention for West Africa.

Jul 13, 2020

The Need for PPE in Mali

Since the beginning of July, 131 new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Mali. This brings the nation to a total of 2,358 confirmed cases. There have been 120 coronavirus deaths reported since the pandemic first reached Mali in March. Currently, Mali has limited testing resources available and only about 350 tests are performed each day despite Mali’s population size of 19.08 million people.

In addition to the lack of testing resources, Mali does not have the necessary equipment to support patients who test positive for COVID-19 and suffer the worst of its symptoms. In fact, a New York Times article estimated that the entire country of Mali only owns 3 ventilators – not nearly enough given Mali’s population size. There are also shortages of nursing staff available to care for patients who test positive for COVID-19. Therefore, the burden of taking care of those who are ill, often falls on family members without knowledge and training. 

Just as we have seen here in the United States, people in Mali have been wearing their masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Schools across the nation are closed so school-aged children are constantly at home. Despite the more limited numbers of positive cases, life has still looked dramatically different for those living in Mali. For example, the inability to congregate as a community affects everyone and has limited schoooling, religous gathering, weddings, and funerals.

Moreover, there is a shortage of necessary PPE (or personal protective equipment) to help protect people from the coronavirus. PPE includes masks, gowns, gloves, and disinfectant, and is required for the safety and well-being of both patients and staff. Since the first reported case in Mali, GAIA Vaccine Foundation has been working to provide PPE and thermometers. As we all wait for the introduction of a vaccine that could help limit the spread of coronavirus in the United States but also the world at large, life has departed from a sense of normality.

GAIA VF recognizes the importance of supporting efforts in Mali to reduce the spread of COVID-19. With your contributions, GAIA VF can expand its efforts and provide greater numbers of PPE and thermometers that can have a large impact on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in Mali. Some examples of the power of your donations include: a donation of $10 USD equates to a box of gloves, and a donation of $25 USD equates to a box of masks. Thank you for your support to GAIA VF and the Sikoro community!

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