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Ending slum deadlock to bring health to Mali slums

Page history last edited by Rosemary 12 years, 2 months ago

Mali  Health Organizing Project takes strong locally-based approach

The Mali Health Organizing Project was founded in 2006 by three American university students who had seen Bamako’s slums at first hand. Sikoroni, where MHOP is based, is a town of 60,000 where citizens have limited drinking water and electricity, where 90% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day, and where nearly one-quarter of the children will die of malaria or malnutrition before age five.

The trio, Caitlin Cohen, Lindsay Ryan, and Erica Trauba, believed that a development organization should foster, not replace, local groups and government action. Similarly, Modibo Niang, Rokia Savan, Siriki Coulibaly and many other of Sikoroni’s leaders were frustrated by a past history of failed projects, including a huge aid-agency water project that left the community without water, without the $30,000 they had contributed, and without many children who died because of iron contamination.

The core of MHOP’s flagship project, Sigida Keneyali (Health in our Homes, in Bambara), which began in November, 2006, is the 12-member local  Community Health Action Group. CHAG researches and evaluates health needs and priorizes projects; plans socially-appropriate strategies; implement projects; and advocates for resources from the community and government. Each of Sikoroni’s six sectors has two representatives, elected at community meetings every three years. Each of the 12 also individually act as a peer educator for 160 people in the community.

Since the beginning, the CAFO (Coordination of Women's Associations and NGOs) of Sikoroni has been MHOP’s "twin" (jumelage) organization. Part of a national network of advocacy for women, CAFO has worked with MHOP to start a women's empowerment training that teaches basic business, health, and marketable skills. This program, which began in the spring of 2007, was soon followed by a microfinance program that gives small loans to poor but entrepreneurial women to start small businesses.

All the programs operate out of the shared community center, which - repaired and furnished - now serves as a meeting and education center local groups and associations.

The project is locally driven. “Malians have a lot to say about what they want to do with the development aid that comes into the country, but they don’t get [to do] much of it,” says Cohen, a medical student at Brown University who came to Mali in 2005 to do AIDS vaccine research but decided that doing something practical  about the problems in Mali’s densely populated slums was more important.  Mali’s slums were suffering from “slum deadlock” – government won’t provide services because communities don’t pay taxes, but communities don’t pay taxes because they lack government services, and many people die of preventable diseases caused by crowding and lack of sanitation and health care.

MHOP is the catalyst to bring slum residents and their governments together, believing that when community committees learn to design, implement, and evaluate their own projects, they will invest in health and ask their governments to do the same. The ultimate goal is for both government and slum to invest in health and development without outside assistance.

While it is an entirely independent organization, MHOP is affiliated with the University of Michigan chapter of GlobeMed, which works in partnership with communities to support locally-driven programs while developing a new generation of global health leaders." By tying action with education and training for students, GlobeMed now not only improves the health of communities today, but we also catalyze a generational movement of young people who care deeply about global health and have the skills to make change happen,” says GlobeMed, which now has chapters at 13 US universities. “By connecting students to grassroots leaders, we are investing in both immediate change as well as the enduring strength of human capital.”

This story was prepared from several sources: the website of the Mali Health Organizing Project, an article entitled The Activist’s Agenda by Jumoke Akinrolaru published in the Winter 2008 edition of Brown Medicine, and information on the GlobeMed website. The photographs come from the MHOP site.



UPDATE: Clinic to be built in 2009


The clinic will be constructed in 2009 and will serve 30,000 people in the poorest part of town. The Malian government will provide 50% of the funding. The community will provide 10% plus the labour and the land. With MHOP's help the town elected and legalized a committee called the ASCOMSISOU to manage the clinic. MHOP has developed the architects plans, received a piece of public land for the project, and is fundraising for the clinic by collecting by small contributions from every household that will be served. The clinic will be constructed in early 2009. MHOP is also raising funds for the project through the Global Giving website.


For other stories about practical health care solutions in Africa, see:

Acupuncturists bring healing, relief, local training across the globe

Benin is an ongoing success story in eliminating endemic river blindness

Bicycle ambulance provides practical health care transportation in Africa

Coping with the grief and loss of AIDS: memory projects bring hope to Africa

Grassroots public health initiatives eliminate dreaded guinea worm disease

Innovative South Africa pill reminder idea spreads globally

Motorbike ambulances save lives of mothers, babies, in remote areas of Africa

New therapeutic food is miracle for starving children

Personal Digital Assistants, and open source software, save lives in Africa

Recycled phones and free software revolutionize health care for Malawi hospital

Successful Tanzanian trachoma treatment offers hope for nomadic communities

Using mobile phones to monitor child malnutrition in Malawi wins award for UNICEF

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