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Epidemic preparedness and response in Mali, Sep 2021

Highlights of a technical brief by the Institute of Development Studies

Despite some significant progress made in policy development and vaccination programmes, Mali is highly vulnerable to epidemics.

Tackling deadly diseases in Africa (TDDA) works with Mali to improve health security and save lives. Integrating social science perspectives into TDDA’s technical assistance work provides important benefits. It strengthens our understanding of the contexts in which we operate and informs the support we give. It can also help to shape emergency response systems so that they are more effective, adaptive, evidence-based, and planned in consultation with affected and at-risk communities.

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is a valued resource partner to TDDA. With our support, they have recently produced a series of technical briefs, detailing the key political, economic, cultural and social issues facing each of the countries we work with.

Here is a snapshot of their analysis for Mali.

Key considerations and recommendations in Mali – summary

Addressing vulnerabilities in preparedness and response: Certain Malians are more vulnerable to disease in general than others. These include: the poor; remote communities; people with inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure; refugees and internally displaced people; nomadic groups; people living in conflict areas; people with malnutrition; and women and children. In Mali’s preparedness and response activities, building participation and trust among vulnerable communities is important. When an outbreak occurs, vulnerable groups can then be engaged early to design and adapt programmes, lead activities whenever possible and relevant, and provide community feedback. Also, response activities should not single out already marginalized communities in a way that may drive stigma or impose restrictions that may exacerbate their vulnerability.

Data sharing, for better decision making and more integrated response: The activities of state and private health providers, alternative health providers and humanitarian groups are not joined up at present. Systems and buy-in to sharing data on epidemic surveillance, service provision, and human and financial resources need to be built. This could help to guide policy decision-making, harmonize preparedness and response plans, and ensure resources are effectively mobilized during an outbreak.

Engaging trusted local leaders and health workers in health communications: Traditional and religious leaders are the most trusted interlocutors in Mali. Other trusted actors include doctors and nurses, as well as alternative health providers. Engaging these people early, and using local assessments, can make health communications more effective and outbreak responses more culturally appropriate. Community radio, and local spaces (like street theatre or town criers, griots) can be used to clarify questions on diseases and gather community feedback.

Alliances with alternative health providers: More than 80% of Malians rely on traditional medicine. Faith healers, tradipraticiens, drug sellers, diviners and others could receive basic epidemiological and risk communication training and could be enlisted to support disease surveillance and response. They can also help in by providing health information and treatments, disease identification and referrals to biomedical clinics when relevant.

Building on existing community networks: This could help support a more holistic, community-led approach to epidemic preparedness and response. Rather than starting from scratch, activities could support existing initiatives and social networks. Relais communautaires and other community-based health volunteers can be enlisted to engage key local influencers. Mali could also build health volunteers’ capacity.

The IDS technical brief for Mali was prepared by Mamadou Faramba Camara, Brahima Amara Diallo and Santiago Ripoll.

Read the full document here:

Sep 2021


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