"I'm very exposed, I own a sewing shop. I serve everyone here, that's why I don't ignore the preventative measures. I don't want to be contaminated and I don't want to contaminate my family," says Kadiatou from Dioïla region in Mali.
At 28-year-old Kadiatou’s shop, her nephew asks everyone who enters to wash their hands first. Kadiatou and her family and friends are well aware of the dangers of COVID-19 and are taking all the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the disease in their community.
In Mali, some people doubt the existence of the coronavirus, so many are ignoring the official guidance issued by the government who declared a state of emergency on 25 March. Added to this is the circulation of misinformation which makes stopping COVID-19 from engulfing this West African country ever harder.
Raising awareness, disseminating correct information and following the official prevention guidelines are key factors in the fight against COVID-19, but social habits and poor hygiene practices hinder this. In Mali, containing the disease is not a subject of debate and the frail health structures, lack of containment centres and testing laboratories add to the problem.
"In Bamako, in the event of a suspected or confirmed case, the person is told to remain isolated until the health services arrive for evacuation, which may take some time. We do not have a laboratory capable of detecting the virus and we do not have the necessary equipment to take care of patients who test positive,” explains the head of the capital city's health service.
Plan International has launched an emergency response and is working with local authorities and community leaders to manage the spread of the disease. We are raising awareness among the population on the seriousness of COVID-19 and the need to respect social distancing measures. We are also providing vulnerable families with hygiene kits, making and distributing face masks, and using radio stations to broadcast prevention messages.
"I received a handwashing kit from Plan International. We were also made aware of the COVID-19 and the barrier messures to respect, we now know the symptoms of the disease and have received masks. There was a lot of talk about the coronavirus, but we now have good information and know how to protect ourselves," says Kadiatou.
Our awareness raising activities are slowly leading to a change in the behavior of the general population. Residents are beginning to become aware of the seriousness of COVID-19 and the need to respect the prevention measures.
“In the sewing workshop we wear masks and regularly wash our hands with soap and water. At home it's the same, no visitor comes into our home without washing their hands and without wearing a mask and now they keep their distance from us," Kadiatou explains.
Through our awareness raising initiatives, our messages is often multiplied throughout the community as people take on the responsibility of sharing what they have learnt with their families, friends and neighbours.
"I have been raising awareness among those around me, my family and friends, on how to behave. I've just left a professional vocational training center and I alone can produce 60 face masks a week. I am happy to do this with Plan International’s support, as it allows me to be useful because we are all responsible for our community," says Kadiatou.