Jul 6, 2020

Importance of Nutrition During a Pandemic

As the world continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19, nutrition and peer support for HIV-positive patients are more important than ever. As always, an important part of GAIA’s mission is to provide support (in many contexts) to people living with HIV. GAIA’s work providing food to the Sikoro community is crucial in this time, as COVID-19 has made it more difficult for many Malians to obtain healthy food.

When asked about the risks and effects of COVID-19 on people living with HIV, Dr. Gulick at Michigan State University said that, “when properly treated, HIV-positive patients are at no greater risk of contracting COVID-19, but that his patients are suffering from isolation and further stigmatization during this time.” 

Although COVID-19 has complicated the ability to provide in-person peer support, Hope Center Clinic is still running the weekly Nutrition Program, providing healthy food for the Sikoro community. Social distancing measures are in place so that these essential food distribution events can continue. It is vital that we keep distributing food to communities in need so that people are healthy, able to take care of themselves, and able to adhere to medication regimens. 

Please consider donating to GAIA, as we work to provide food for HIV+ patients and other community members. Food security is more important now than ever, and we are working to ensure that HIV-positive patients and other community members have the nutrition to sustain themselves and their families during this pandemic.

Jun 29, 2020

Access to Food and Water in Mali

The impacts of COVID-19 includes unprecedented fatalities, shutdowns, and quarantines
around the world. Yet when thinking about the effects of this virus, it is often forgetten how it impacts the retrieval of basic human necessities, such as food and water. 

In Mali, women regularly go to the market to purchase fresh produce for their homes. One impact of the shutdown in Mali is that some markets have been forced to close. This has meant that mant individuals are unable to even retrieve the basic necessities to cook and provide food for their families. This is even greater capitalized by the fact that many Malians have lost their job amidst the worldwide economic collapse, meaning that many in the country do not have the resources to pay for the market or travel to receive food, a deadly combination caused and exacerbated by the pandemic. According to a report by the World Food Programme estimates a 70% increase in food insecurity within West Africa by August. The time to provide basic necessities (food and water) has never been so essential.

At GAIA Vaccine Foundation, we have continued to support basic nutrition throughkeeping our “Nutrition and Peer Support” program at the Hope Clinic, our most widely utilized initiative. Even amidst the shutdown, the clinic was able to enforce social distancing procedures while providing food for Malian families, distributing over 250 meals.Given the existing poor health infrastructure, job loss, increased number of COVID-19 cases, and lack of access to food/water, we anticipate a steep increase in the necessity for the HIV+ members in our community to utilize our “Nutrition and Peer Support Program” at GAIA Vaccine Foundation. However, in order to sustain the Hope Clinic operations and ensure that many in the Malian community do not face starvation, we need your donations!

A small donation of $10 provides a weekly meal for an HIV+ patient-- and $100 is
enough to give an entire meal for 25 people. At this time, it has never been more essential to support the basic nutrition of the Malian people. Each day, as the number of cases rises exponentially and the shutdowns expand, many do not have basic access to retrieve even small meals, concurrent with the loss of jobs that continues to leave many Malians struggling both with basic nutrition and a declining economy. Your donation goes a long way in ensuring the provision of basic necessities towards our community. There has never been a more important time to support our vulnerable population not only from the virus itself, but its catalytic effects in ravaging the economy, access to food, and weakening the already underdeveloped healthcare system in Mali.

Jun 26, 2020

Battling COVID-19 Begins with Access to Supplies

This past Tuesday, June 23rd, the Malian Ministry of Health and Social Affairs confirmed 23 new cases of COVID-19, raising the total number of infections to 2,001 throughout the country. Thus far, Mali has reported 112 deaths due to the coronavirus and current political unrest has sparked manifestations and insurgencies across the nation that are likely to increase case numbers. Mali has endured internal turmoil since 2012 when an uprising prompted soldiers to overthrow the president; today, the impact of COVID-19 has only further exacerbated the humanitarian crisis, where 3.5 million people are currently suffering from food insecurity and 757,000 are severely food insecure. According toU.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, the pandemic is likely to increase the number of people who will face crisis levels of food insecurity to 1.3 million in coming months.

Increasing awareness, disseminating accurate information and following official prevention guidelines are key factors in the battle against COVID-19, but the lack of personal protective equipment and safe social behavior hinder this. In an interview with AllAfrica the leader of Bamako's health service stated, “We do not have a laboratory capable of detecting the virus and we do not have the necessary equipment to take care of patients who test positive.”

A New York Times article estimated that as of April 17 the entire country of Mali owned 3 ventilators, that is, 6.5 million persons per ventilator. A dire need for basic equipment like ventilators are just part of the reason people across Africa are fearful of catastrophic outbreaks, especially among countries with struggling health systems. This lack of clinic supplies also has many experts concerned about chronic shortages of much more basic supplies needed to stagnate the spread of the disease and treat the ill—items like masks, gloves, gowns and disinfectant.  “The things that people need are simple things,” said Kalipso Chalkidou, the director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development. “Not high-tech things.” Getting more ventilators to African countries is not enough. Medical personnel, healthy and properly protected medical personnel, are also needed to operate the machines and run existing healthcare facilities; clinic supplies and personal protective equipment are crucial to the well-being of all Malians.

Despite remaining in a state of emergency since March 25th, curfews have been lifted and though it is mandatory to wear masks at all public places, basic clinic supplies remain scarce. As Mali confronts this pandemic, we must remember that behind these rapidly growing figures are families and communities. At GAIA VF, we recognize that as a global health advocate, we must ensure that all communities have access to the basic clinic supplies necessary to combat COVID-19 and are working tirelessly to provide these to our Hope Center Clinic and partner community clinics that care for the people of Mali.

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