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Pick CHAMPS in Mali

Mali, March 2017


For CHAMPS, building trust with communities is essential.


When a family loses a child in the neighborhoods of Bamako, Mali, the sorrow is felt throughout the community. Because many of these deaths happen at home and never receive any kind of official cause, that sorrow is often compounded with uncertainty and a lack of closure.


CHAMPS works to find the reasons why young children die in places like Bamako, then shares that information with families. It’s a sensitive process that relies on understanding and trust, which we build through extensive community engagement.


In Mali, our team carries out robust activities in social behavioral sciences in order to understand community perceptions and to support strong, sustainable partnerships between with local communities.  One of these activities is a series of workshops entitled Participant Inquiry into Community Knowledge of Childhood Health and Mortality Prevention (PICK-CHAMP).


CHAMPS, in collaboration with local partner CVD-Mali, has conducted these workshops for both community leaders and community members in the neighborhoods of Djigoroni and Banconi. These communities comprise the catchment area for CHAMPS surveillance and demographic activities in Mali, and the staff at CVD-Mali are keenly aware of the importance of understanding the perceptions of community leaders and community members before beginning to implement CHAMPS surveillance.


In Bamako, PICK-CHAMP represents the first efforts from the CHAMPS social-behavioral science team to begin to understand those perspectives and to work to build relationships and partnerships in the local communities where CHAMPS will be implemented. A total of 125 participants from the two neighborhoods participated in the workshops, which yielded rich qualitative data that will inform a variety of CHAMPS activities in the future.  For example, the workshops revealed high levels of support for carrying out mortality surveillance activities, with some important caveats.


More than 80 percent of community members stated that they would support surveillance activities as long as those activities did not interfere with carrying out important religious rituals at the time of the death of a child.  Those rituals include prayers, washing and preparation of the body, and a timely burial of the body.


The PICK-CHAMP workshops identified other issues that could impact perception of CHAMPS activities.  The community identified a number of factors that impact child health; in most instances, those factors can be addressed by health providers in clinical and community settings.  This bodes well for the community seeing the benefits of CHAMPS since the data gathered through CHAMPS will better inform maternal and child health services in the future.


At the same time, a number of participants claimed that health services for mothers and children are not as easily available as they would like.  Under such circumstances, community members may ask why CHAMPS can show up to conduct mortality surveillance after a child has died but medical providers couldn’t be more accessible when the child was alive.


PICK-CHAMP and other community engagement activities represent the first of many efforts across the CHAMPS network to work alongside local communities to demonstrate respect, build long-lasting relationships and share information to protect and save young lives.


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