A UNFPA-supported project in Bamako, Mali, has helped to improve living conditions in the city's old central quarters by building awareness of hygiene and health issues. Poor drainage, an accumulation of uncollected garbage, and a lack of potable water and sanitation facilities were among the consequences of runaway population growth in these neighbourhoods. These conditions resulted in a proliferation of flies and mosquitos and rampant malaria, diarrhoeal diseases and other illnesses, especially in the rainy season.
To ameliorate these conditions in the Medina Coura district, a Women's Cooperative for Education, Family Health and Sanitation was created with support from UNFPA and UNIFEM. It involved secondary school graduates in organizing efforts to collect household garbage and clean up sewage ditches, combined with public education campaigns on health, family life and hygiene. Informal discussion groups and film showings aimed at women and adolescents focused on topics like the importance of sanitation, proper waste disposal, and protection and treatment of drinking water. They also pointed out the risks of too-early and too-closely spaced pregnancies, and provided information about family planning.
The outcome was an increased environmental awareness and changes in household behaviour, leading to improved living conditions. Residents proved willing to pay for garbage collection and cleanup efforts; these modest fees helped to sustain the project. More favourable attitudes regarding contraceptive use also resulted. The success of this project generated interest in creating similar services in other neighbourhoods. UNFPA is now supporting a similar project in the Sabalibougou quarter.