The limited resources available in Mali make it extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. The best chance that Mali has is to prevent an outbreak before it begins, so that is our focus. If you can, we hope you will contribute, or buy a bar of soap, and together we will help make sure families and health centers have the essential resources they need, like soap, to stay safe.

Like us, you are probably receiving daily emails about the global pandemic confronting our world.

While there are no confirmed cases in Mali, we do not yet know what impact COVID-19 will have on the communities we serve.

Mali is extremely vulnerable to an outbreak like COVID-19. There are perhaps only 20 ventilators available and the health system simply does not have the capacity to manage the number of patients who would need care. In the peri-urban communities we serve, limited access to running water and soap, as well as dense populations, make many preventive measures difficult or impossible to adopt.

But we are holding on to hope. The countries surrounding Mali have several cases, including the continent’s first confirmed death to the disease, a woman in Burkina Faso. The fact that there are no confirmed cases in Mali is an incredible achievement. We are doing everything we can to support both the government and communities to prevent any cases.

Here are a few reasons why we are hopeful that we can:

The people of Mali are resilient.

The past several years have been some of the most challenging in Mali’s history. If there is anything we can say about the challenges Malians have faced since 2012, it has contributed to their strength and resilience. Malians repeatedly demonstrate their commitment to their communities and to one another; social cohesion is extremely valued and it is worked towards every day in large and small ways. Since we began our work, the people of Mali have faced a political crisis, the Ebola outbreak, and a worsening security situation. Through it all, Malians are working together to support one another and their communities. Resilience is one of the greatest strengths Mali has to get through this pandemic.

We are ready.

Even though we are a community organization, our team has experience responding to disease outbreaks and coordinating with national responses. Our community health workers continued to serve their communities during the Ebola outbreak, and have a strong desire to do so. Our team continues to reach thousands of families with the prevention information and resources they need to stay healthy. We are helping our community health center partners prepare and implement stronger prevention measures. Our dedicated team will continue serving their communities unless distancing measures are ordered by the government, or until it becomes unsafe for them to do their work. We do not know how big the task before us will be, but our team is prepared, and we are helping our partners and the communities we serve prepare, too.

Here are some of the steps we are taking:

  • Our health team did a refresher training for our entire team, including over 50 community-based health workers and group facilitators, on the signs of COVID-19 and the top prevention measures
  • In the homes and communities we serve, our team is emphasizing these messages in their daily visits, particularly handwashing with soap (which is always a big priority for us)
  • With our CSCom partners, we have re-implemented many Ebola prevention methods, such as ensuring our health workers are stationed at each CSCom to greet and share information with all visitors and making sure all visitors wash hands upon arrival and departure
  • We are making sure our partners have all the equipment they need to maintain proper prevention protocols, such as handwashing stations, and soap. Until the threat of COVID-19 has passed, all proceeds from the sales of our soap will go to equipping community partners with soap, which we will source from our cooperatives.
  • We are in the process of doing a small evaluation to assess where the needs might be at our partner CSComs (in terms of facility and preparation) as well as how best to help them with health promotion and making sure prevention messages reach all patients and visitors

We are also making plans, should the very worst occur. When the health system is stressed and its resources spread thin, access to primary care will suffer. We’re doing all we can to ensure that mothers and children will still have access to quality primary healthcare, during this pandemic, and after it.

We will get through this in the same way we accomplish everything we do –  by working together.