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In Mali, keeping ahead of Ebola

By Hector Calderon and Hawa Samake

Well before the first case of Ebola virus was reported in Mali, Sayon Traore was busy getting the word out about how people can protect themselves from the disease.

BAMAKO, Mali, 27 October 2014 – “Our task and that of the health workers is very challenging.” Sayon Traore says. “Trade, and population movements between our village and those villages across the border in Guinea make our grassroots information sessions difficult, and the risk of infection continues to be high for us all.”

© UNICEF Mali/2014/Samake
A women’s group in a village near Kayes city, Mali, meet to discuss Ebola and how to protect their families from the disease.

Ms. Traore is a resident of Dalabala, a village in the municipality of Selingué, in the Kayes region of Mali, about 100 km from the border of Guinea. She is the wife of the village chief, president of the village women’s group and an active community liaison, responsible for promoting proper nutrition, health, education and protection of children in her village.

Soon after news appeared of the Ebola virus outbreak in neighboring Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Ms. Traore called a meeting of her women’s group to discuss prevention measures in the village.

Together they began conducting home visits, organizing community dialogues on hygiene practices to prevent Ebola and other diseases, and keeping members of the community informed about the Ebola virus and prevention measures, including surveillance of the disease. The women’s group partnered with the local health center to obtain communication materials, including fliers, posters and pamphlets for information sessions with communities and visits to every household in the village.

Raising awareness

Since the confirmation of the first Ebola case in Mali on 23 October, Ms. Traore’s work has become even more urgent.

The need to halt the spread of the Ebola virus with accurate information and public outreach – actively combating rumors, fears and misconceptions about the disease – is becoming more and more critical to the overall response.

“I first started by teaching my own family about good hygiene and prevention practices,” Ms. Traore says. “I warned my seven children and my grandchildren on how Ebola is transmitted. I particularly stressed the need to be mindful when hunting and avoid touching wild animals whenever possible. I thought them how to properly wash their hands using soap, as I was myself instructed at the health center. They have been practicing it ever since, which makes me really happy.”

© UNICEF Mali/2014/Dicko
Marieme Sidibe, 14, from the region of Kayes, shows her peers how to properly wash their hands with soap to avoid diseases.

She says people are becoming aware of the danger that is the Ebola virus: “I've seen a lot of people buying bleach, soap and utensils to wash their hands.”

In collaboration with the government and other partners, UNICEF Mali has been supporting prevention efforts through outreach in high-risk areas through mobile teams, as well as circulation of messages through community radio. At the national level, UNICEF has participated in developing media campaigns for TV, radio, newspapers and billboards.

UNICEF has also provided supplies to the Government, including tents, diarrhoeal diseases treatment kits, and other WASH items such as water purification tablets.

“The awareness campaign launched by the Ministry of Health, the High Islamic Council, UNICEF, WHO and other partners can help avoid the virus from spreading to our village, saving thousands of people’s lives,” Ms. Traore says. “I urge all actors, including UNICEF, to continue to step up their efforts by working with us to halt the virus for the well-being of our community members, especially our children.”



UNICEF Photography: On Ebola's frontlines

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