Working in Partnership to Improve Child Survival: Red Cross Support to the Ministry of Health During the Mali Integrated Campaign

Author(s): M. M. Erskine1, D. Adama*2, J. Peat1, O. I. Toure3
Affiliation(s): 1Health and Care Department, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Geneva, Switzerland, 2Governance Committee, Mali Red Cross Society, 3Ministry of Health, Bamako, Mali
Keywords:

Child survival, Mali, Ministry of Health, Red Cross, integration, vaccination, malaria, civil society, partnership

Background:

In 2007, the Malian Ministry of Health worked with its financial and technical partners to plan and implement one of the largest child survival campaigns to date. The Mali Child Survival campaign targeted over 2.8 million children under the age of five throughout the country. In one week, children received vaccination against measles and polio, supplementation with vitamin A, deworming treatment and long-lasting insecticide treated nets for malaria prevention. Together, the integrated package addresses a number of diseases that contribute to a high disease burden among African children.  A central part of the campaign planning was the communications and social mobilization strategy, to ensure that all segments of society were informed and motivated to promote and participate in the activities. One organization that played an important role was the Mali Red Cross Society, which trained 2,500 volunteers in six regions of the country. The partnership between the Malian Ministry of Health and the Malian Red Cross is an example of how civil society organizations can play a supportive role to improve healthcare delivery. The Malian Red Cross continues to play this auxiliary role for community- and household-based promotion of routine health services to work towards sustaining the high coverage rates attained during the integrated campaign.

Summary/Objectives:

The objectives of the Integrated Child Survival campaign in Mali were to reach more than 95% of children with measles vaccination and more than 80% of children with all other interventions. Additional objectives included ensuring adequate social mobilization to persuade caretakers of the importance of the campaign, undertaking micro-planning for logistics and management of all campaign supplies and implementing an effective system for monitoring and supervision during the week of activities. The campaign will be evaluated in late January/early February using PDA technology.

Results:

Results for this presentation are divided into two components, one related to process and the other related to impact. In terms of process, a strong collaboration and cooperation existed amongst partners, with the Ministry of Health leading and coordinating all activities. Strong relationships with civil society organizations, including the Mali Red Cross, allowed for successful mobilization of parents and organization of sites for the child survival campaign. The role of the Red Cross as a civil society organization is highlighted here to emphasize the need for community-based volunteers to ensure that the most vulnerable, and the most resistant, households receive these necessary interventions. In terms of impact, data were collected daily during the seven days of campaign activities and information was relayed from the health centre level to the national level through telephones, computers and radios. The results of the campaign indicate that all objectives set at the outset of the campaign were not only reached but also exceeded. A cluster survey, using PDA technology, will be used to confirm the daily tally results from health facilities with household level data regarding under fives and their participation in the campaign.

Lessons learned:

The Mali Integrated Child Survival campaign was an enormous undertaking for the country. The importance of partnership, at both international and national levels, is highlighted as a major reason for the success of the initiative. Within the vast country, the contribution of community-based organizations is central, as demonstrated by the role of the Red Cross in mobilizing caretakers before, during and after the campaign. The importance of ongoing messaging to parents to ensure that health facilities are accessed for routine vaccination services, and to contribute to positive behaviour change at the household and community level, are retained as major lessons for sustaining achievements.

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