Malian Religious Leaders Take an Active Role in Prevention of Malaria during Pregnancy

Apr 2010
Since many Malians believe talking about a pregnancy before it is visible can bring bad luck, women tend to hide their pregnancy and do not make their first antenatal clinic visit until late in their pregnancies. With PMI support, these leaders are trying to change this practice through teachings based on passages from the Koran and Bible and by educating and encouraging dialogue among couples about malaria and pregnancy.
Imam Zeidy Drame of the Omar Ben Katab Mosque in Lafiabougou, Mali, uses teachings from the Koran to encourage pregnant women to attend antenatal care clinics and receive IPTp to reduce the risk of malaria in pregnancy. Source: Moussa Doumbia/USAID

Imam Zeidy Drame of Omar Ben Katab Mosque in Lafiabougou, in the southern quarters of Bamako, Mali, is concerned about the negative impact of malaria on pregnant women in his community. He learned about the dangers of malaria through a PMI-supported program that works with more than 950 traditional and religious leaders to lift barriers that prevent women from accessing antenatal care services early in their pregnancies. These leaders are part of an interfaith health promotion network in Mali called Réseau des Leaders Religieux pour la Promotion de la Santé. The network encourages Muslim and Christian leaders to use their weekly sermons or teachings to promote openness in talking about pregnancy.

Since many Malians believe talking about a pregnancy before it is visible can bring bad luck, women tend to hide their pregnancy and do not make their first antenatal clinic visit until late in their pregnancies. With PMI support, these leaders are trying to change this practice through teachings based on passages from the Koran and Bible and by educating and encouraging dialogue among couples about malaria and pregnancy.

PMI is working with the Réseau des Leaders Religieux to develop advocacy and training materials for use by other religious leaders. The materials, which include a standard sermon for Friday prayers, use clear and simple words to describe the risks of malaria for a pregnant woman and her newborn child and discuss cultural barriers to taking IPTp. Armed with teachings from the Koran and with an increased understanding of the dangers of malaria in pregnant women and young children, Imam Drame now preaches that "Islam encourages us to use all the resources available to us to prevent disease and preserve our health" and that men should communicate with their spouse on health matters.

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