Today is officially my first day in Mali and I have been attending briefings from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to learn more about Mali’s largest ever integrated health campaign. It will protect an estimated 2.8 million children by providing polio and measles vaccines, vitamin A, deworming medicines and antimalaria nets to help them grow strong and healthy. I would like to add that the only reason I am able to sit up right now and write this blog is due to a traditional tea known as “gun powder.” I think the name speaks for itself.
While I sit in my room and gaze at the Niger river, I wonder as to where I should start. The amount of information received today was extensive, and the travel via United Nation’s vans from one point to another allowed us to see the culture and day to day life of Mali. I feel as though I could write a book, but I won’t bore you.
First I think it would only be appropriate to warmly thank Diego Gutierrez and his wife, Ginna, MLS W.O.R.K.S., and the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign for giving my wife and I the opportunity to be a part of observing this important campaign.
The Malian people are warm and grateful to have us here to help in the fight against malaria. Living in North America, we really haven’t grasped how good we have things in terms of medical treatment. When you realize a mosquito bite can cause serious illness and death, the reality is mind blowing. When you look at the statistics—every 30 seconds an African child dies from a malaria infection transmitted by a mosquito bite, and every day 25 million pregnant women risk severe illness and harm to their unborn child, one cannot overlook this epidemic and not gravitate to this worthy cause.
So again I am very blessed to have the opportunity to be here in Mali to see first hand the effect malaria has on the people, and to see the distribution of medicines, vaccines and insecticide-treated nets to help protect children under five and pregnant mothers. As Admiral Ziemer of the President’s Malaria Initiative stated today, “this is by far the biggest [anti-malarial] campaign in the world at present.”
To be a part of this trip representing MLS W.O.R.K.S., the Houston Dynamo, Canadian National team, and Nothing But Nets is huge honor.
I will also add that I was proud to learn today that the Canadian International Development Agency and the Canadian Red Cross are among the largest supporters for this campaign.
I am really looking forward to what lies ahead. Given that I’ve seen women walk with baskets full of bananas on their heads and men driving bikes with goats on their laps, I can’t imagine there will be a dull moment here in Mali. So long and stay tuned for more from my trip.