Collecting data and waste for Gnaman ni Sôrô ni Kènèya

Collecting data and waste for Gnaman ni Sôrô ni Kènèya

The following are excerpts written by Adam Aicha Hanne, an MPH – PharmD student who spent her summer practicum working with the Mali Health team in Bamako. She worked on the Gnaman ni Sôrô ni Kènèya project with the Community Capacity Building department.

The goals of the five-year Gnaman ni Sôrô ni Kènèya project are to improve community health by addressing environmental health hazards and creating opportunities for youth and women’s employment through waste collection, composting, recycling, and repurposing.

One of the goals of Gnaman ni Sôrô ni Kènèya project is to turn what is currently treated as waste into a useful commodity. Based on the Sustainable Community Project from GAYO in Ghana, we want to work with peri-urban communities to convert everyday trash into reusable products. But our very first step towards achieving our goal is to conduct research. Our research is composed of five analyses, three of which I am currently working on:

  • Waste composition analysis
  • Social norms analysis
  • Stakeholder analysis

This week we focused on the waste composition analysis as it is the most time-consuming and physically demanding one. Along with our team of investigators, we went into our target communities – Sabalibougou, Sikoro, and Kalabambougou – to physically analyze the waste generated by the homes participating in the survey. Investigators were provided with a spreadsheet that categorized the different types of waste that are typically found in waste sacs.

Teams of investigators were responsible for adequately weighing the waste sacs, identifying and segregating the types of waste, and documenting the weight of each type. The information will be used to used to identify which waste products are recyclable and the total waste per category will be quantified. Through our analyzes, we will understand the types of waste generated by the participating communities, and how their waste can potentially benefit them.

Learning from History

Adam Aicha Hanne

Last week I had an in-depth. fruitful conversation with my aunt and cousin about pre/post-colonial Mali. So, basically, our conversation was about Mali in the 1880s & 1960s. We spoke about how Mali was succeeding with the ruling of President Modibo Keïta. My aunty expressed that around the time of Modibo Keïta, Mali was functioning sustainably and the streets of Bamako were so clean. She emphasized how the community was centered around the culture, and how traditional ways were respected and followed as laws. For instance, people were frowned upon if they littered or did not contribute to community efforts to keep the country up to par. Mali was united regardless of tribalism or religious beliefs. After our conversation, she told me to take a look at Mali’s original constitution. Therefore, I focused on finding Mali’s first constitution right after gaining its independence from the French government.

However, during this research, I learned that Modibo Keïta had ruled as Mali’s leader during colonialism and post-colonialism from 1915 to 1977. But then my main question became who ruled Mali before colonialism in the 1880s? And what was the constitution or constitution-like understanding of the people of that time? I hope that my Bambara teacher who studies the history and social structures of Mali will be able to fill the gaps in the questions I have about Mali and its history. I honestly believe history is important to understand the future. My motto used to be don’t get stuck in the past but focus your energy on the future. That motto has always come in handy for me and has allowed me to advance in many ways in my life. However, as of today I now understand that it is important to look back at the past and analyze for what may have worked for people or communities and utilize those hidden gems in the future. I hope by revisiting the past I can bring to light the gems of the past to the future, and hopefully what I find can be helpful to my Malian communities.

Meet Aminata, our new Program Assistant

Meet Aminata, our new Program Assistant

It is Wednesday, February 3, 2021, Aminata’s 3rd day in her new position with Mali Health. In the early morning at her desk, we asked Aminata to share her feelings about her journey and new role.

I am Aminata Seydou Traoré, I’m 29 years old, and I live in Kalabambougou in Commune IV of Bamako District. I have a Master’s degree in Law with a Judicial Career Option from the Faculty of Legal and Political Sciences of Bamako.

Aminata began working at Mali Health in February 2018 as a savings group facilitator, an animatrice, in Kalabambougou in our Women-Led Health Financing (WHF) programs. While she was serving as an animatrice, Mali Health supported the launch of one of our first cooperatives in Kalabambougou. Aminata brings extensive experience implementing our WHF strategies, but she has something even more valuable. She brings understanding and knowledge from three years of listening to and directly supporting women in her community. Reflecting on her time at Mali Health, Aminata tells us:

At first I wondered how I should go about meeting the goals that were assigned to me. Then little by little, I was able to fit into a team full of diversity. The questioning gave way to confidence and enthusiasm; then I said to myself that I have a lot to learn with this organization. My personal goal was to be able to be in a management position in the program in which I work. With the position of Program Assistant opened, I thought to myself – now is the time. So I applied and was right to believe it and give it a try.

She was right to believe in herself and try, and today Aminata is ready to thrive in her new role. Ambitious and always committed to serving her community, Aminata is also active in civil society organizations, including the Coalition of African Alternatives Debt and Development (CAD-Mali) through an organization known as Association of Youth for the Development of the Municipalities of Mali. We look forward to the enthusiasm and energy she will bring to her work with thousands of women across Bamako.

*Aminata is stepping into the role once filled by Aïssata Touré Kouyaté, who was recently promoted to Storytelling Manager.

Global Handwashing Day 2017

The Health Promotion Department recently celebrated Global Handwashing Day, which takes place every year on October 15th. During the celebration, we promote hand washing with soap as an easy and affordable way to save lives by preventing pneumonia, diarrhea, and malnutrition, three conditions that are especially dangerous for children. Mali Health community health workers encourage families enrolled in our programs to wash their hands with soap throughout the year, but Global Handwashing Day is our opportunity to spread this important message to families we wouldn’t normally reach.

Two boys demonstrate handwashing technique in SikoroThe theme for 2017 was “Our Hands, Our Future.” Mali Health recognized the occasion by hosting two public educational events: one on October 14th in Kalabambougou, where hundreds of women participate in our Savings for Health program; and the other on October 20th in Sikoro, where we engage community members in all three of our programs to improve the health of women and children. Between the two events, 1,100 people joined in the festivities.

Handwashing kits that were distributed during the eventWe focused on promoting hand washing with soap at three critical times: 1) after using the restroom, 2) after changing a child’s diaper, and 3) before touching food. Two of our Quality Improvement coaches, Dr. Sogoba and Dr. Bathily, demonstrated proper hand washing techniques to the crowd, and our emcee Abdou Touré, Mali Health’s media expert, kept the crowd engaged and entertained between activities. Those attending answered trivia questions about hand washing and won hand washing kits, complete with wash basins and several bars of soap.

We were grateful to be joined by representatives from Mali’s Ministry of Women, Children, and Family Affairs and the Ministry of Social Development, Humanitarian Action, and Economic Solidarity; their participation both strengthens Mali Health’s relationship with important actors in maternal and child health in Mali and provides an opportunity for community members to meet and share their thoughts with their government.

Meet Korotoumou

Meet Korotoumou

It’s late afternoon and women in Kalabambougou begin gathering for their weekly savings group, in the shade of an old moringa tree. Korotoumou Camara, 25, is there with two of her six children. She is steeping the first round of sweetened green tea for the group’s members. There are freshly roasted peanuts for sale and another woman is selling chunks of juicy watermelons. One group member braids another’s hair, and a young girl is hanging brightly colored clothes on the line to dry. This is where the members of Ben Kadi (mutual understanding) and Yelen (light) meet to save for their future needs. The group has two names because there are two things the women save money for: healthcare and small business activities.

Korotoumou is the group’s treasurer. When she isn’t meeting with the other women, she is busy with her small business selling vegetables at the nearby market or doing the never-ending work to keep her home functioning (cooking, cleaning, minding the kids). Her oldest child is eleven and her youngest is the nine-month-old girl in her lap commanding her fullest attention. She thinks education is important, so her five school-aged children are all enrolled at the nearby public school. Korotoumou and her husband, a local brick mason, had limited education when they were younger. He attended a traditional Islamic school, or madrassa, for eight years and she attended a public school until grade 5.

Korotoumou counts her group's weekly savings as group members observe
Korotoumou counts her group’s weekly savings as group members observe

Korotoumou was in a savings group before Mali Health introduced the idea of adding a health savings aspect. She says that contributing members feel a new sense of ownership for their family’s health needs. Before the health savings group, when one of her children required a visit to the doctor, she was unsure how she would pay for the visit and any medicines. She did not like asking family or friends for a loan because it made her and her husband feel embarrassed. Now, with the ability to take a loan from her savings group, they feel a sense of pride in being able to do for themselves what so often they had to rely on others for.

There was a health center built in Kalabambougou a few years ago, but it never opened. There is a solar-powered water tower that is empty and beginning to rust. A maternity ward with gurneys and delivery areas are collecting dust and cobwebs. The grounds serve as a temporary farm field for the family tasked with caring for the vacant health center until whatever local political dispute preventing its opening is resolved. Korotoumou shakes her head and laughs when talking about the unopened health center; she doesn’t think there’s anything she can do about it. Though, it would be convenient to have a closer health center. The closest Mali Health partner is over three miles away, so she uses the health center in the next town.

When one of Korotoumou’s children falls ill, she knows it immediately. Instead of running around playing with friends, she says they remain at home asking to sleep and lay down. At this is telltale sign, she now goes to the health center with confidence that she can afford the visit and treatment. She and her husband still wait to see if their symptoms clear up on their own, but she doesn’t wait for her children because she knows they are at greater risk and require timely treatment. The most frequent illness the family encounters is malaria, especially during the rainy season when the mosquito population booms. She and her husband still use traditional herbal medicine to treat less severe cases of malaria because it is cheaper than western medicine, and in their experience, just as effective.

The institutions that Korotoumou and her family rely on are fragile and it is difficult for her to feel secure in their future. The fear of not being able to provide for their children’s health needs used to keep her up at night. But with the support from her savings group, she can now rest a little easier. The collective nature gives her confidence that her community cares and it instills in her a feeling of agency. She knows she is contributing to better health – not just for her children, but many other children in Kalabambougou.

About Kalabambougou

Kalabambougou is a peri-urban community not far from the busy streets of Bamako’s city center. After leaving the paved roads behind, drivers go from dodging the moto bikes that weave in and out of traffic to skirting the car-sized pot holes formed by the deluge of the rainy season. Residents have recently filled potholes with large boulders that they will smash into smaller pieces with sledgehammers. It’s daunting work, made more intolerable by the relentless heat and humidity. But maintenance of these dirt roads is vital because they ensure access to Bamako, the markets, and the closest health center.

Piles of rocks fill in holes in the road to Kalabambougou