Under the merciless rays of an insistent sun which pierces a perenially brown dust-laden sky, we take our postions as international VIPs in a huge dirt schoolyard on the outskirts of Bamako. We are here for the offical launch ceremony for the country’s integrated health campaign week, and awaiting Mali’s president.
The yard is festooned with banners urging parents to bring their children to vaccination posts. It is packed with hundreds of strategically placed school children sitting in the dirt layered rows around the perimeter. Scores of Malian guests are bedecked in rainbow-colored flowing robes with matching hats. Westerners are in formal business atire. The VIPs sit in overstuffed lounge-chairs planted in the dust and mercifully shaded under tent enclosures. The stage is set for the arrival of the