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Healthcare in MaliMali has suffered from the presence of terrorist groups in its north and western regions, lethal diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, and a coup d’etat in the past two decades. These circumstances have created a strained and ineffective healthcare system. Mali’s infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world and average doctor visits per person have been one in every three years. This is in part a result of its system’s user fees, which many in Mali cannot afford.

Free Healthcare to Address High Maternal and Child Mortality Rates

In 2019, Mali announced that it would begin offering free healthcare to pregnant mothers and children under 5. This is a monumental step forward that came after decades of adhering to a system that had barely changed since the 1960s when the country gained independence. This radical new change will benefit the healthcare system’s most vulnerable recipients and work to lower the infant mortality rates as well as the lack of citizens’ use of the healthcare services. However, the program’s success is dependent upon how effectively they can roll out the changes to avoid flooding their healthcare systems.

Besides user fees, other issues persist in Mali which put citizens at risk for disease and insufficient care. A large issue is the lack of education regarding women’s health. Mali has the third-highest fertility rate in the world, and its capital is one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa. The absence of health education leaves young women vulnerable to shorter birth intervals, lack of skilled birth attendants and female genital mutilation, which all result in Mali’s high maternal mortality rates. With an average of six children per mother, education measures that address health and family planning are necessary to address high maternal and infant mortality rates as well as alleviate poverty.

USAID Helps Tackle Infectious Diseases

Another large concern is the prevalence of infectious diseases. Mali’s degree of risk is ranked at very high for diseases like malaria, dengue fever, hepatitis A, meningitis and typhoid fever. These illnesses result from living in poverty, with a lack of clean water and adequate health services, as well as contact with animals and parasites carrying disease. As of 2018, USAID is supporting 991 health programs in regions across Mali to alleviate these health issues. Supplies such as bednets, diagnostic tests and medication are disseminated to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.

This is very important work, that needs increased funding in order to continue spreading these life-saving services, as malaria cases reached 3.3 million in 2017 and the disease was responsible for almost a quarter of child deaths. With a larger budget and increased reach, USAID could provide Mali with the tools to create a self-sufficient healthcare system capable of tackling the maternal and infant mortality rates as well as the rampant infectious diseases.

Ellie Williams
Photo: Flickr

Child Mortality Rates in Mali
Mali, a West African country with one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, has developed a health outreach program that is drastically reducing child mortality rates. Muso, a nonprofit organization, is fighting child mortality rates in Mali, where 78 percent of the population is living in some form of poverty.

Muso trains local Malians to become community health workers, who then go door-to-door in both rural and urban areas of the country to seek out sick children and provide on-site treatment. The healthcare package that the organization provides includes treatment for malnutrition, malaria and diarrhea, as well as family planning information. For only $8 per year per person, this program is able to provide healthcare services to millions of Malians across the West African nation.

Most of the community healthcare workers are women, giving the organization its namesake. In Bambara, a lingua franca and the national language of Mali, “muso” means woman. A well-known Malian proverb reads, “If you educate a woman, you educate her family, her community and her entire country.”

The program has been operating since 2005 and has already shown very promising results. Scholars from the University of Harvard, University of Southern California San Francisco and the Malian Ministry of Health conducted a repeated cross-sectional survey of the intervention from 2008 to 2011. The study found that during the time period, there was a decline in child mortality rates in Mali (child defined here as those under five years old). The study also identified that malarial and febrile illness treatment had nearly doubled during the time of the study compared to the national rates prior to intervention.

It is important to note, however, that the study was not randomized, so researchers cannot definitively conclude that the outcomes are a direct result of the program.

“The leading causes of child death are curable, but they are exquisitely time sensitive”, says Muso founder Dr. Ari Johnson. The organization seeks to remove barriers, such as fiscal constraints, to allow easy access to healthcare in Mali and eliminate preventable deaths that are rooted in poverty.

This nonprofit is reducing child mortality rates in Mali through incredible public outreach. Since the program’s inauguration, Muso has completed 3.2 million home visits with 93 percent of patients being treated within 72 hours, providing comprehensive and rapid care.

Not only is Muso providing healthcare, but it is also working with government-run health services to improve their healthcare delivery. Government-run clinics have fees and lineups that often create delays in care. Muso eliminates these barriers by bringing the care to patients and freeing up space in government-based clinics for those who cannot be treated at home. In addition, Muso provides training, staff and infrastructure to the government clinics, allowing more Malians access to healthcare.

Muso is demonstrating how one nonprofit can aid in reducing child mortality rates in Mali through a unique model of healthcare delivery and is removing barriers to access for many Malians. It will be interesting to see how the organization continues to expand and improve their work in Mali.

– Katherine Kirker

Photo: Flickr