Tag Archives: ebola

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Salif Keita – Folon


Wow. One whole year since Keita made an apperance on the Hub – last appearing here within the midst of the ebola pandemic. Where does the time go? Since Mali’s successful response to the outbreak the Health Ministry has been using its time to learn the lessons and use them to tackle other national health problems like child mortality. Impressively, the Health Ministry will focus on a pro-active and pragmatic ‘door to door’ approach to identifying symptoms. All too often people in Mali, owing to overwhelming costs of healthcare, will ignore symptoms in blind hope of recovery and will only seek medical assistance when conditions become unbearable. Tragically, by this time they are usually untreatable and a terrible rate of mortality, especially amongst children, prevails.

Are these solutions affordable for the government and its people? Proudly, Mali Development Group have been working with Malian local authorities and charities in the Yanfolila region of south-west Mali for a number of years now, providing funds for a ‘mutuelle’ healthcare provision scheme – making preventative medcine more affordable and accessible to Malian families and there at the early stages –  when they need it most. Look at any ebola outbreak map and it is easy to see that the Yanfolila region, with its proximity to worst-hit Guiena, was the most vulnerable region and had to serve as the buffer against the disease to the millions living 20km up the road in Bamako. Community health is a crucially important issue for the area, indeed the country, for humanitarian, economic and security reasons – ebola showed that a disease left to its own divices can lead to any society to completely “unravel”. Malaria for example remains a huge problem. Mali’s friends, communities, charities, and now government – its seems – acknowledge the importance of preventative action in regards to health, and have hopefully come up with a workable – and proven – plan to deliver it. This is very welcome news and hard to believe when thinking back to the oblivion facing West African countries a mere 12 months ago.

 

Salif Keita – Folon

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Fatoumata Diawara – Bissa

Is the situation in Mali getting better? Or is it getting worse? How do we even attempt to answer this question? The common reference point for many is the 2012/13 conflict. What great achievements has Mali secured since then? In what way does the country continue to slide further out of control?

To concentrate temporarily on the good stuff, there has been one headline grabbing ‘break-through’ moment in recent weeks. Even more important than the Bamako-Segou Highway having almost been completed is that Mali has been declared “Ebola Free” after going 42 days without a new reported case. The virus claimed 6 lives and infected 8 since October. The resilience of Mali’s health system has been tested, and comparatively speaking, it has scraped through successfully…for now. Mali, for the most part remains a post-conflict, developing country and the region’s healthcare systems have been decimated by Ebola. Like every internal issue affecting Mali today, it must be considered within its international context.

Balancing and structuring a narrative about the national and international ‘setting’ of Mali’s struggles is done excellently in this piece by Andrew Lebovich. In a succinct and accessible manner, Lebovich reminds us of the complexity of the issues at hand, and indeed contributes plenty more questions to those that started this article – how can we measure success in Mali? Worthy of significant consideration are the issues of the Tuareg, the remnants of the MNLA, illegal drug trade, gangs, French intervention, regional diplomacy and trade to name a few.

One good bit of regional news is the return of the Festival sur le Niger for its 11th edition, at which Fatoumata Diawara is expected to play alongside an all-star cast of fellow Malians. In international news, a Malian-born man has been awarded French citizenship following his “heroic” actions at the kosher restaurant where he worked when it was attacked by a gunman, killing 4. The story of Lassana Bathily is a small beam of goodness is the misery that has racked Parisian society over the last month.

After a such a mixed update of all things Mali, a populist choice for Song of the Week has been made. The song has over 900,000 views on YouTube since its 2011 upload and following its release on Diawara’s first album ‘Fatou‘.

 

Fatoumata Diawara – Bissa

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Salif Keita – Bobo

As ebola poses an increasing threat to Malian security and to the welfare of its people, it is important to highlight the continued efforts that are being made nationally, regionally and internationally to combat the disease.

In the UK the most high-profile effort has been the increasingly controversial Bob Geldof-led campaign “Band Aid 30” – a reincarnation of the Band Aid brand that has raised funds through charitable music record sales for decades. Though the new track, re-recorded this time with a specific focus on ebola in its lyrics, is raising millions of pounds it has still been regarded by some as perpetuating negative stereotypes of the African continent; thus in political and investment term it is doing more harm that good. The outrage is well-placed, with criticism even emanating from contributing artists that have ‘regretted’ the content of the final cut. When fighting a large-scale epidemic in an impoverished part of the world, it is hard to think of anything more valuable than vast sums of money – at least in the short-run. But even here issues are raised: where are the millions of raised money actually going? And many have supported the critique that the lyrics are now out-dated and the Band Aid project is now not only irrelevant, but insulting too.

On the flip-side of the debate, some have argued passionately that the resurrection of this specific campaign at this time has particular resonance. Adrian Lovett, a leading campaigner with Jubilee 2000, Make Poverty History, Save the Children and now “global advocacy lobby” ONE points to the failed promises of the G8 summit at Gleneagles as being the real worthy focus of criticism in this debate. This G8 summit in 2005 was the last time the last Geldof-led anti-poverty musical campaign was wheeled out. Lovett explains that:

“If the promises made in 2005  had been kept, these healthcare systems [of West Africa] would’ve been more effective and might have been able to contain the disease as has been done in Nigeria and Uganda…Geldof is putting those broken promises back on the political agenda.”

It could easily be argued from here that the ‘Band-Aid’ brand has the appropriate campaign history to tackle ebola with a sense of consistency and credibility.

Meanwhile, the original (NOT “alternative“, by the way) African ebola campaign song keeps doing the rounds, providing sound advice in many regional languages. Arguably the most famous contributor to the original is Malian legend Salif Keita which is why he has made it as this week’s Song of the Week. ‘Bobo’ is the opening track of his 2005 album M’Bemba.

 
Salif Keita – Bobo

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Songhoy Blues – Al Hassidi Terei

As mentioned in a previous post, new kids on the block Songhoy Blues are back in the UK this week to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Right on queue, their new single – featured as this week’s Song of the Week – was announced on YouTube. The single, with a well constructed video, goes on sale December 8th, ahead of another short UK tour in early 2015.

Back in Mali there is good news – but no cause for complacency. The Ebola response currently under-way in the country is winning strong praise across the world. But its all still hangs in the balance. Comparing Mali to two different countries – Nigeria and Guinea – and how their governments and societies responded to the disease. The Nigerian government, despite having cases in many of its major, densely populated cities, got in control quick, dedicated resources and Nigerians took it up with urgency. Guinea, on the other hand, crumbled. As the New York Times reports:

“Luckily, rumours that the disease did not exist, or that Westerners started it to sell drugs, got little traction in Mali. But in Guinea, such beliefs crippled the response to the epidemic for weeks.”


Lucky indeed. It would be wrong, of course, to attribute the uptake of good hygiene practices and cooperative behaviour of everyday Malians to luck. However, as this article points out, in the Bamako eyes are were turned to Kayes, a town where tragically the 2 year old daughter of the Cisse family died of Ebola. For the community, the situation could have turned even worse  as the case was not reported to health authorities immediately. When the government did learn of the case they acted decisively:

“79 people who had contact with the girl are in quarantine, including 33 health workers. No warning signs were reported as of today. “At present, our country recorded a single case of Ebola on a total of 32 suspected cases,” said Minister of Health.”

Keep up the good work as its not time yet to uncross those fingers.

Songhoy Blues – Al Hassidi Terei

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Africa Stop Ebola – Various Artists

Africa Stop Ebola is the song for a public-awareness campaign spearheaded by a host of African musicians in response to the continuing Ebola virus outbreak. Contributing artists hail from Guinea, Cte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and – of course – Mali. It has all the makings of a perfect campaign song. Importantly in this case the song is sung in many different languages from widely spoken European imports of English and French to regional languages like Soussou, Bambara, Kissi and Lingala.

Secondly, the message is clear: Do not despair, work together and trust the doctors. This is to remedy the overwhelming testimony being heard from national and international health workers battling on the front line: society is in disarray, at the brink of collapse. A situation exacerbated by the isolation, quarantine and other foreign healthcare practices which – though absolutely necessary – are driving a wedge between patients and health workers. Natasha Lewer, a UK medic who valiantly answered MSF’s desperate staffing call, shared her experience of Sierra Leone here. An excerpt from the article is below and highlights the need for restoring trust in healthcare in Africa:

“Everyone here is keen to do anything they can to stop the disease that’s threatening to unravel their whole society – it’s already made travel impossible, put an end to parties and funerals, closed schools and universities, made food prices rocket, and instilled suspicion and fear – of neighbours, friends and even family. “There are no gatherings or naming ceremonies, people are even scared of going to church,” MSF counsellor Tamba says. “They are afraid to do all the things that used to make them happy.”

 

Mothers no longer want to bring their sick children to MSF’s paediatric hospital in case they get taken away by an alien in a spacesuit and are never seen again. As a result, many of the children only arrive when they are so ill that it’s too late to save them.”

So it is a certain blessing that so many big-name musicians have lent themselves to this campaign. On a recently compiled list by Forbes of the 40 most influential celebrities in Africa – at list upon which musicians dominate – its the 4 Malian collaborators (Salif Keita, Oumou Sangare, Amadou & Miriam), out of the whole group, to make it in there. Musicians are obviously doing there bit. The same cannot be said for the sporting world. The logistics of travelling teams has spiralled into mixed messages, misinformation and international finger-pointing over the viability of both the Africa Cup of Nations in January/February 2015 and the Fifa Club World Cup in two months time.
Crucially, the song is so easy-going and so inoffensive to the ears it could be played over and over. Which it should, obviously.

Africa Stop Ebola

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information please email him directly at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We look forward to hearing from you.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Rokia Traore – Lalla

“I’ve never stopped being optimistic and also hopeful concerning Mali. And yes, I know the situation is still definitely fragile.” – Rokia Traore, speaking in August 2013

When does a conflict count as being over? After a very long, sluggish year of recovery the words of singer, songwriter and guitarist Rokia Traoré are as relevant as ever. This week’s song is from Traoré’s album ‘Beautiful Africa’ released under Nonesuch Records in April 2013, meaning the album was written “amid constant news of torture and killings”. The dark days of 2012/13 are over, yes, but the conflict rumbles on, churning out death and injustice. In particular, UN troops, as opposed to local Malian’s, have been targeted. In the past 15 months over 30 UN peacekeepers have been killed, and over 90 wounded – with 9 killed in a single attack earlier this month. With the world distracted by the amassing violence in Syria and Iraq, you’d say is was perfect timing for the incumbent UN mission leader to do a runner. The French forces have been also busy, intercepting an al-Qaeda convoy full of weapons and militants.

The north of the country sees the least amount of progress. The familiarity of military vehicles and the absence of tourists and trade continue to grind away at the residents of Timbuktu.A lack of resources is coupled with a lack of a strong presence from national institutions. For the most part, the basic ‘legal machinery’ needed in the north is still missing. The people of northern Mali are not seeing justice for crimes committed during the height of the conflict. This was a key Presidential promise going awry. Inventively, the government has responded with mobile information clinics which have been set up to gather testimony and deal with the back log. Soliders are being questioned too which is a positive sign. However, there is a major fear that even with the correct information in the right hands the population are still reluctant to give offenders up, especially if they are from the same ethnic group. A commentator warns “if there is no justice, others might seek revenge.

Besides the conflict, the ever global spectre of ebola looms large. It must be of some national pride that the Malian health ministry has been selected by Oxford University and the Centre for Vaccine Development at the University of Maryland to trial an experimental vaccine against the virus. It is urgently needed by their West African compatriots on the ‘front line’ in the battle, where health workers have died in their hundreds. Whilst Bamako remains bruised from the continuing conflict it must count itself lucky that it hasn’t had any reported cases despite a land border with Guinea which has had over 1,200.

The song has been chosen this week to reflect this mood. The conflict rumbles on. But Mali is rumbling on too. It is relatively peaceful, but the situation is very volatile as any number of enduring issues could explode at any time. Patience is the order of the day. That and frustration. The steady but fiery rhythm of Lalla symbolises these competing emotions, and in the heart-felt, floating and roaring lyrics of Traoré there is sorrow and anger. An abrupt finish – a call for Mali to simply get its act together?

Rokia Traore – Lalla

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Habib Koité – Sirata

Mali is split into regions, much like any country. In its southern west corner Regions I, II and III are located, along with the country’s capital Bamako which is given an administrative region all of its own. These three Regions – named Kayes, Koulikoro and Sikasso – are currently on high alert with border controls in place trying to step the flow of a deadly Ebola outbreak in West African neighbours Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. This month international medical NGO MSF has raised further concerns about the scale and danger of this outbreak. They stressed that Ebola will remain ‘out of control’ until the international community steps up its response and it could begin to spread to other countries in the region.

Fortunately for the people of Mali their country has yet to test positive to the disease.

This week’s song hails from Kayes region which is the most westerly part of Mali. It is a region of mixed geography, dry Sahelian generally with forests and a ‘rather wet‘ climate on the Guinean border in the south. The Malian this week is Habib Koité. The bio on his website (translated by Google) explains that:

‘He inherited his passion for music from his paternal grandfather who played “Kamale ngoni”, a traditional four-stringed instrument associated with hunters from the region….“Nobody really taught me to sing or play the guitar …. ” explains Habib, “I looked at my parents, and it rubbed off on me.” Habib was destined for a career in engineering, but thanks to the insistence of his uncle who had spotted early musical talent and persuaded his parents, he enrolled at the National Institute of Arts (INA) in Bamako. 

Good move, judging on his career success and great contributions to Malian music. His style provides an alternative to most Malian music associated with his generation (Koité’s youthful appearance of dreadlocks and a charming grin shades the fact that he is 56 years old and represents the generation in-between Salif Keita and Toumani Diabaté). His style is ‘intimate and relaxed, emphasizing calm, moody singing‘ rather than concentrating on instrumental technical prowess. This week’s song is a fantastic example. Here Koité is backed up by his band ‘Bamada’ which is the nickname given to Bamako by its residents.

 

Habib Kioté – Sirata