Preparing Health Workers to Meet Women’s Reproductive Health Needs in Mali

It takes two days to drive from Mali’s capital, Bamako, to the Gao Region in the north. Encompassing 66,000 square miles, Gao is larger than Greece, Tunisia, or the state of Florida. The region’s population is more than half a million, including 269 nomadic groups.

Mother and child in MaliAt Gao Nursing School, a private-sector school located in this remote region, faculty are preparing students to provide much-needed care for the diverse community. Family planning and reproductive health are a particular focus and a challenge as well. Students illustrated the context by acting out a typical scenario for the US Ambassador to Mali, Gillian Milovanovic, during her recent visit:

A newly-graduated midwife takes up a post at a health center. She realizes that the community doesn’t access the available services for family planning. Local women continue to have numerous pregnancies, and maternal and infant mortality are high. The new midwife received advanced training in contraceptive technology and family planning counseling, and decides to take action. She reaches out to influential community leaders to explain the advantages of family planning and clear up misconceptions. No health worker had tried this before.

The students chose this skit to emphasize the value of new curriculum modules in family planning and communication, which prepare graduates to involve the community in activities for reducing maternal and infant mortality.

At entrance to Gao Nursing SchoolCapacityPlus supports Gao Nursing School to implement its strategic plan and strengthen the reproductive and child health curricula. These and other activities—such as conducting supportive supervision and ensuring quality management of the school’s computer lab—continue the work begun during the Capacity Project (2005-2009).

Recently CapacityPlus updated the school’s family planning/reproductive health and child health training package so that it can be used by the Ministry of Health at schools in other regions. CapacityPlus is also working in the Koulikoro Region to enable clinical sites to use active management of the third stage of labor and essential newborn care.

To date the school has provided the Mali Ministry of Health with 680 health workers—nurses, midwives, and lab technicians. Remarkably, 95% of them work in health centers located in the north. Graduates are providing much-needed services and using their up-to-date skills in family planning and reproductive health to improve the lives of local women.

Related items:

Photos by Trevor Snapp. (Mother and child in Mali; entrance to Gao Nursing School)