Final days of Have a Heart for Mali fundraising campaign

Have a Heart for Mali
There are just two days left in our Have a Heart for Mali campaign! To everyone who has donated during the last six weeks, we say thank you, merci, i ni ce! Thanks to your support, we will be able to keep our team of professional translators and editors in Bamako busy through the end of 2013 and finish translating nearly half of the book.

Please consider making a donation today. We are a volunteer-run organization, so every dollar will pay to translate, proofread, edit, or field-test the Bambara-language edition of Where There is No Doctor.

Thanks to the excellent blog Boing Boing for helping spread the word about our project yesterday!

Bilingual Edition?

We’ve discussed the idea of creating a bilingual edition of Where There is No Doctor for use in Mali, that would have both French and Bambara, on facing pages. The reason? Most doctors, nurses, and health workers are educated exclusively in French. However, most rural people do not speak French well, if at all. This can cause trouble*–when it comes to subjects like medicines and dosages, communicating clearly can mean the difference between life and death. In response, the Ministry of Health and others have published lexicons, or lists of French and Bambara words, for use by health workers.

A bilingual Where There is No Doctor is meant to be much more. It is a comprehensive guide for community health workers, covering a wide range of topics in its 450 pages. Here is what it might look like. Please share your thoughts. Would this be helpful? How might different groups use it? (View on Issuu, or download a PDF.)

* A 2004 study in Bougouni, Mali by epidemiologists from Johns Hopkins and the University of Bamako found that “drug consultations done in both French and the local language, Bambara, had higher scores than those conducted exclusively in Bambara.”

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Endorsement from ECOVA Mali

We received a stirring testimonial from our friend and colleague Greg Flatt in Massachusetts, who recently contacted us to congratulate us on our efforts and offer encouragement. Greg and his wife Cindy founded ECOVA Mali five years ago to help Malian villagers and promote food security and rural development.

As a former Peace Corps Volunteer who served in rural Mali in the late 1990s, I have distinct memories of being helped out personally, or being able to help out others by poring through the pages of “Where There Is No

An ECOVA-Mali community garden in Mali

An ECOVA-Mali community garden in Mali

Doctor.” It helped me to understand various symptoms and ailments and their probable causes. Importantly, it also tells you how serious or urgent a condition might be, and what kind of treatment(s) might be useful or necessary.

I have maintained close ties with Mali and have been back many times in numerous capacities. I am always struck by the profound power that literacy holds—a power that is inaccessible to most Malians.  Fortunately, Mali has made significant headway in implementing an educational policy that prioritizes local language literacy as a component of primary education. Since most Malians don’t go to school beyond primary school (and, sadly, many don’t get a chance to go at all), any useful educational material that can be made available in local languages can have a profound impact, especially when dealing with issues of health and nutrition, and illness prevention and treatment.

An additional benefit of the “Where There Is No Doctor” is the abundant use of illustration. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words. I fully support the publication of this valuable book in Bamanankan (Bambara), and praise the Dokotoro Project’s efforts to bring it into reality. It has the very real potential to positively impact vast numbers of Malians. The majority of Malians who live on the margins of medical access will benefit from the publication of this book in their local language. So to will those who live in larger towns and cities, many of whom do not know enough about various health conditions to adequately triage life-threatening situations and take advantage of what medical resources are available to them.

Using “Where There is No Doctor” in Ghana

I recently had a chat with my friend and colleague Dr. John Akudago, who praised the work that we’re doing. John is from the small town of Zebilla, in northern Ghana. Today he lives in New Mexico with his wife and three kids and works as a senior researcher at the Pacific Institute. He shared with me a story about how people in his community frequently referred to Where There is No Doctor.John Akudago

Growing up in Ghana, the book “Where There is No Doctor” was very well-known. Kiosk vendors would refer to the book to help diagnose and treat sick customers. They would listen carefully to our symptoms, then refer to the book to learn what medicine to take and how often. The vendors that used the book got a good reputation in the community, and had a big advantage over their competitors.

There were no hospitals in the region. The closest one must have been 40 miles away, and it was a long and expensive trip. I and many others benefited from the advice in this book. It practically turned non-experts into doctors!”

A huge thank you to everyone who is helping to make this book become a reality. Our Have a Heart for Mali campaign recently passed the $11,000 mark! Please consider making a donation to help us to meet our goal of $20,000 by March 31.

International Women’s Day and Health in Africa

Today, March 8th in celebrating International Women’s Day. Unfortunately, for many African women, pregnancy and childbirth is a death sentence. In Mali, 1 in 22 women will die from maternal health complications (compared to about 1 in 600 in the United States, or 1 in 1,400 in Australia). This graph, from an MPH thesis by Elizabeth Swedo at Emery University, powerfully summarizes one of the major reasons we launched the Dokotoro Project. Figure3

The book Where There is No Doctor contains a wealth of information on women’s health, including pregnancy, delivery, and reproductive health. Access to this medically-accurate, up-to-date information can save lives. That is why we chose to make Chapter 19, Information for Mothers and Midwives, one of the first chapters to be translated. Check out the draft version on our Downloads page.

And thank you to everyone who is helping to make this book become a reality. Our Have a Heart for Mali campaign is close to passing the $11,000 mark. Please consider making a donation to help us to meet our goal of $20,000 by March 31.

Support from the Mali Health Organizing Project

The Mali Health Organizing Project is a US-based nonprofit organization that works in Mali’s urban areas to improve women’s and children’s health. In January, we met with them to share ideas and discuss how we might help one another.


One of Mali Health’s collaborators, Dr. Diakaridia Traore, is currently helping us to review materials before translation. And we think that the book will be a tremendous resource for their team of community health workers. So we were pleased to receive these words of support from their Executive Director, Kris Ansin:

We commend the important work being done by the Dokotoro Project to translate this vital text into Mali’s most widely spoken language. As the introduction to Where There is No Doctor puts it, “even where there are doctors, people should take the lead in their own healthcare” – but in order to do that, they need educational resources.  This translation is a practical and important step to removing barriers and empowering communities, both peri-urban and rural, to be proactive in the pursuit of better health.

If you want to help us make this life-saving information available to regular people in Mali, please consider making a donation during our Have a Heart for Mali campaign. Help us reach our goal of $20,000 by March 31!

Have a Heart for Mali