Child Poverty in Mali
With a population of more than 21.6 million people, the average Malian woman gives birth to 5.7 children in her lifetime, according to World Bank data from 2020. Children between the ages of 0 and 14 accounted for 47% of the population in Mali in 2020. Because children stand as Mali’s future leaders and changemakers, it is important to address child poverty in Mali. According to the World Bank, in 2016, 41% of Malian children aged 0-17 lived in multidimensional poverty.

The United Nations describes child poverty as multi-faceted. According to this definition, child poverty involves deprivations of “nutrition, water and sanitation facilities, access to basic health care services, shelter,
[and] education.” While poverty hurts every group of people, regardless of age, poverty disproportionately impacts children as it affects children’s ability “to reach their full potential and to participate as full members of the society.”

Poor health care, inadequate nutrition, inaccessible education and nationwide conflict impact the well-being of children in Mali.

Child poverty remains a global crisis because childhood is a consequential stage of a person’s life. During childhood, the availability of basic resources such as access to good health care services, education, shelter, food and clean water determines the ability to survive, develop and thrive.

Facets of Child Poverty in Mali

  • Health. The poor health care system in Mali, especially in rural areas, affects children more than adults as preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, measles, polio and diarrhea, pose serious threats to children living in poverty. Yet, “only 45[%]of children in Mali receive all basic vaccinations and 14[%]receive no vaccination at all, depriving them [of] protection from common childhood illnesses,” UNICEF reports. The lack of childhood vaccinations contributes to one in every 10 Malian children dying before reaching their fifth year of life. Inadequate health care also contributed to one of out every 30 newborn babies dying within the first month. UNICEF works with the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Gavi and the World Health Organization to “provide critical vaccines for children, improve routine vaccination and support complementary vaccination.” UNICEF has led vaccination efforts in Mali, ensuring 387,422 children receive vaccinations against measles in 2022.
  • Nutrition. In Mali, undernutrition is responsible for almost 50% of deaths among children under 5. The acute malnutrition rate in Mali is one of the highest in the world. In 2018, 27% of children under the age of 5 had stunted growth (low height-for-age) and 9% suffered wasting (low weight-for-height), according to USAID data. However, as of September 2022, 94,681 children aged between 6-59 months with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) received treatment through the help of UNICEF.
  • Education. The shortage of trained teachers, lack of easily accessible schools, the prevalence of child marriage and conflict and insecurity across Mali contribute to poor education and child poverty in Mali. In the past 10 years, education in Mali has progressed, but more than 2 million Malian children between 5 and 17 still do not attend school. Furthermore, UNICEF reports that more than 50% of Mali’s youth aged 15 to 24 are illiterate. To tackle this, UNICEF and partners support the Government of Mali in providing out-of-school children with formal and informal education to enable them to reach their full potential. As of September 2022, slightly more than 16,000 Malian children can now access formal and non-formal education services, “including early learning,” and 19,939 children are benefiting from “individual learning materials.”
  • Conflicts. Ongoing violence and conflict impact children the most. Children miss out on education, risk displacement, exploitation and abuse and are unable to access essential services. Conflict and instability as well as funding shortages have led to the shutdowns of 1,700 schools in Mali as of March 2022. The European Union has given Mali more than €446 million worth of humanitarian aid since 2012. These funds go toward the provision of food, emergency shelter, access to health care services, protection and psychosocial services as well as children’s education.

The action of various groups helps to tackle the issue of child poverty in Mali. Through continued efforts, the international community can safeguard the rights of children in Mali.

– Oluwagbohunmi Bajela
Photo: Flickr

Malian Military Junta
Mali recently decided to ban all non-governmental organizations operating with funds or support from France. The decision came in response to France’s announcement to “suspend[]its official development assistance to Mali.” France cited the Malian junta’s alleged use of “the Russian paramilitary group Wagner” to combat jihadism as the reason for this disassociation. Wagner has a reputation for brutality, standing accused of such crimes as rape, abuse of human rights and massacres. The Malian military junta has denied accusations of using Wagner, with Colonel Maiga condemning the allegations as “fanciful allegations” and “subterfuge,” Africa News reported.

Despite the denial of these allegations, tensions have ratcheted and the Malian military junta has chosen to ban all NGOs related to France including organizations focused on providing humanitarian aid. France, similarly, has not accepted Mali’s denial and views the alleged participation of the Russian Wagner group as a “collaboration between the two countries.”

Effects of Aid Loss in Mali

The removal of aid could prove devastating for Mali, which has faced a variety of crises including extreme poverty, the spread of jihadism and massive civilian displacement. For instance, Action Against Hunger reported that, in Mali, almost 70% of the population lives in poverty. Worsening conditions related to conflict and recent droughts have led to many children suffering from severe malnutrition.

Many French NGOs are working in Mali on issues related to food security, health and access to education and French military aid withdrew in August 2022. Germany also made the decision to pull out of Mali and while the Malian military junta has appeared unconcerned, Souleymane Camara, president of the Malian human rights organization LNDH, has claimed, “The withdrawal of the forces of countries that came to help contain the advance of the Jihadists is very worrying because Mali does not have the means to deal with the situation.”

The Malian military junta’s vice president, Fousseynou Ouattara remarked that Mali is against “permanently expanding a foreign military presence on our territory.” However, Mali’s relationship with Germany has been much less tumultuous, with Germany electing to leave some troops in place in anticipation of the February elections and Mali and parliamentary secretary of Mali’s transitional government, Amadou Maiga, has expressed gratitude to Germany and voiced an interest in resuming their alliance in the future, stating, “I think that the cooperation will continue on other levels, like development and security. We thank them and we will face our destiny,” DW reported.

History of Tensions

Tensions with France are not a new conflict in Mali, which has a history that French interventionism has broadly defined. France colonized Mali in 1890, making it French Sudan. The conflict between France and Mali has continued to define the region, as France colonized various regions of West Africa, often with a complete lack of concern for the “local ethnic, religious and cultural dynamics” and “the political and cultural ecologies of the regions…” While this has led to internal conflict, France has also been guilty of more modern atrocities, such as supporting the Algerian government’s “repression of the democratic transition that began in 1988.”

This decision ultimately resulted in the formation of the Islamic Salvation Front which then took power as an oppressive and authoritarian regime with western backing. France also voiced support for Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2012, which lead to fallout and increased violence that endangered West Africa, according to Al Jazeera.

Potential Solutions

This history has made it difficult for Mali to conceptualize France’s presence as anything other than antagonistic, as it has seen the nation interfere with democracy in the past. One could broadly describe Mali’s military junta’s unease with French aid as a result of France’s own making in relation to this history of recent failures. This situation makes it particularly difficult to remedy, as Mali’s military junta is resistant to western aid. However, many France-dependent NGOs are advocating for their ability to work in Mali. CCFD Terre-Solidaire, Handicap International, Médecins du Monde and Oxfam have penned a letter to French President, Emmanuel Macron, claiming that ending aid in Mali would lead to “the cessation of essential, even vital activities (…) for the benefit of populations in situations of great fragility or poverty,” Africa News reported.

Despite fears of rising jihadism, Mali also remains hopeful, as Amadou Maiga claims military withdrawal from the west will “require a reorganization of our troops and maybe a little more logistics”, adding, “But we’ll deal with it. We’ve been expecting this,” according to DW. Hopefully, Mali can reroute its aid relations to nations with whom they have less tumultuous histories and defend against jihadist attacks in the meantime. Also, stabilization could possibly be restored after the German-supervised February 2024 elections.

– Braden Hampton
Photo: Flickr

Civil Societies
On August 8, 2022, the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken started his tour of countries in Africa to strengthen U.S. ties with African countries. The main goal of the tour is to highlight the benefits of a relationship with the United States, which promotes strong civil societies to tackle poverty in Africa based on democratic values. This is in contrast to having China as the main ally, which, according to U.S. officials, lures countries into a debt trap that hinders economic progress. Furthermore, a relationship with a democratic country such as the U.S. allows African countries, which have a dark history of imperialism, to improve their economy and empower their own people without feeling controlled.

Poverty in Africa

In recent years, African countries have been experiencing turmoil in the form of corruption, coups and authoritarianism, all of which have prevented them from achieving social, economic and political progress that can reduce poverty. For example, according to the World Bank, Mali’s poverty rate in 2020 was 41.9%, the latest poverty estimation of the country. However, the citizens in African countries have demonstrated willingness to achieve ambitious goals of reducing poverty through empowered, but fragile civil societies.

The people in these African countries are passionate about improving their countries and moving away from their colonial past. Secretary Blinken’s trip to African countries illustrated the desire of African countries to help their own people live better lives without a major power such as the U.S. or China dictating them. In other words, African countries believe that tackling poverty requires a vibrant civil society that democratic values powers.

Democratic Economic Assistance Improves Lives

Economic development is the most important goal for African countries considering the daily struggles of their own citizens. Thus, it comes as no surprise that African countries value economic aid from developed countries. However, the terms and conditions of the economic aid that developed countries hand down vary. According to the Council on Foreign Relationships (CFR), Chinese economic aid “sans the moral scrutiny and rigorous conditionalities associated with American assistance.” This opens the door to corrupt practices such as debt traps that hurt the average citizen in Africa.

The U.S. does not “direct state funds to roads and other projects” which could make countries vulnerable to debt, The Washington Post reported. U.S. economic assistance encourages strong civil societies to tackle poverty in Africa.

Security from a Democratic vs. Autocratic Ally

African countries such as Sudan and Mali have experienced violence that resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. That is why African countries continuously seek security assistance from major countries such as the U.S. or Russia. However, countries define security differently from one another given how they implement it domestically.

For example, Russia provides security through the Wagner Group, a private group that deploys mercenaries that embolden repressive autocrats in return for “precious minerals like gold.” As a result, the Wagner Group committed “civilian killings” and launched “social media disinformation campaigns” which caused instability.

On the other hand, throughout Secretary Blinken’s tour in Africa, the White House emphasized “African contributions and leadership” in tackling security issues, paving the way for strong civil societies to tackle poverty in Africa.

Assistance with Governance

Some African countries have experienced turbulent coups that caused instability. Thus, countries such as Libya often request assistance with governance from other countries for stability. The issue of governance in Africa is delicate, however, with citizens in the region wanting to choose their own government without major powers dictating how they should rule. According to The New York Times, Russia, through the Wagner Group “props up autocrats,” such as General Mohamed Hamdan of Sudan in return for money and minerals that belong to the citizens.

According to The White House, the U.S. approach to helping African countries govern is by “backing civil society” and “centering the voices of women and youth” in determining the politics of their country. Thus, more democratic governance could make it easier for strong civil societies to tackle poverty in Africa.

The U.S. is far from perfect in terms of its foreign policy and aid to developing countries. However, Africans may finally get the chance to rebuild their countries and take control of their future after many decades of colonialism followed by turmoil after independence. U.S. policy favors civil societies which are the key to reducing poverty, empowering women and increasing the quality of life. Secretary Blinken’s tour reminded the world that “most Africans remain drawn to western values” and “the allure of the U.S. economic model,” The Washington Post reported.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) lifted sanctions imposed on Mali after military rulers proposed a two-year transition to return to civilian led democracy. ECOWAS made the announcement at the July 3rd summit in Accra and received supported from the United States, as well as the European Union.

Colonel Assimi Goïta took power in May 2021 after capturing former President Bah N’daw. West Africa saw a series of military coups in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso over the past year.

Humanitarian Crisis in Mali

Malian citizens are in urgent need of international aid. Sanctions exacerbated a dire humanitarian crisis in Mali. As a landlocked country, Mali relies on regional trade to reach broader markets.

Food security is a major issue. Around 70% of food in the country is imported. Prices at markets skyrocketed after the announcement of additional ECOWAS sanctions in January 2022. Wholesalers stockpiled resources, leveraging the embargo to make profit off of Malians in poverty. The Food Security Cluster estimates that 1.8 million people in Mali need emergency food assistance as of June 2022.

Along with food insecurity, years of violence in Northern Mali is disproportionately affecting those living in poverty.  The Coalition des Mouvements de L’Azawad (CMA), a pro- Tuareg separatist umbrella organization that is made up of multiple different armed groups, Al-Qaeda affiliated radicals in the Sahel and the Malian military, continue to engage in conflict for territory. Security remains a vital concern for Malian citizens and is why many continue to support the military junta after years of state incompetence.

Furthermore, 1/3 of healthcare resources are funded by external donors. Access to medical care is limited, especially in the North where armed violence is concentrated. The conflict restricts the movement of NGO workers and Malian citizens, creating isolation from healthcare institutions.

Sanctions on Mali’s military government disproportionately affect low-income citizens. Now that the embargo is lifted, the international community must act to ease human suffering in Mali.

Effectiveness of Sanctions?

The humanitarian crisis in Mali resurfaces questions about the effectiveness of sanctions. Often perceived as a non-violent alternative to military action, sanctions are now the global norm for “correcting rogue states”.

However, sanctions can threaten the basic needs of poor people around the world. It is not the ruling government, but citizens in poverty that suffer the dramatic impact of international embargos.

There is little evidence to suggest that sanctions successfully pressure illiberal states. Burkina Faso’s military, which launched a coup in early January, announced a 24-month plan to return to a civilian led government. ECOWAS did not enact widespread sanctions against the junta state. Instead, West African leaders opted to send representatives to engage in diplomatic negotiations. ECOWAS mediator Mahamadou Issoufou praised Burkina Faso’s military leadership for their “openness to dialogue”.

Sanctions can cause a divide in global order. Military governments make pacts to survive embargos. Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, who led the September 2021 coup in Guinea, allowed Mali access to the port city of Conakry to bypass trade restrictions.

Sanctions, Embargoes and Support Rallies

During ECOWAS sanctions, Mali substantially increased gross trade with China. Taking advantage of the power vacuum left by Western-backed blockades, Beijing further engrained hegemonic authority in Africa. Russia is also attempting to expand its sphere of influence to the Sahel region. The Kremlin aligned Wagner Group paramilitary force is working closely alongside Mali’s junta government. Sanctions in Mali only hardened diplomatic and economic realignment, empowering Washington’s rival alliance networks.

Furthermore, embargos often produce civilian solidarity with illiberal governments and ferment anti-West sentiment. In Mali, civilians rallied in support of Colonel Goïta’s government after additional ECOWAS sanctions were announced. Sanctions are dangerous to civilians living in poverty and U.S. foreign interests.

Sanctions, lack of mobility and access to the entire country are challenges facing NGOs working in Mali. However, there are still organizations that are doing important work on the ground today. CARE International provides long-term development planning and emergency food relief in Mali. As a partner with USAID’s Office for Food and Peace (FPP), supporting CARE’s mission of combating the humanitarian crisis in Mali will reduce human suffering, as well as improve Washington’s relationship with actors in the African Sahel.

A Look Ahead

ECOWAS lifted sanctions on Mali after military leaders announced a plan to return to civilian led democracy. The announcement comes at an urgent time for Malian citizens, who felt the brunt of the economic embargo.

Samson Heyer
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Mali
Mali is a country where human trafficking is widespread, according to the U.S. State Department. This suggests that the government of the western African country is failing to achieve the bare minimum for abolishing the practice. Instead, Mali has increased some of its prevention efforts — at least since 2017. Mali is not overlooking trafficking, according to many observers. In fact, the government is attempting to stop human trafficking in Mali.

The Situation in Mali

Despite its ranking, the Malian government is making strides to remedy its human trafficking conundrum. These initiatives include educating judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers on human trafficking, as well as issuing a directive prohibiting minors from entering military installations.

Further actions aimed at combating human trafficking include government collaboration with international groups such as the Fodé and Yeguine Network for Action, and the Ministry of Women, Children and Families. In addition, the government has concentrated efforts amending an old anti-trafficking law as recently as 2019.

Mali’s justice minister has issued an order requiring judicial officials to give priority to cases brought under the original statute. Due to the absence of an integrated process to gather anti-trafficking statistics, law enforcement material previously was fragmentary and thereby challenging to access. The 2019 amendment sought to establish a unified strategy for data collection.

Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 42% of its total population living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t help, as a recession dropped Mali’s gross domestic product by nearly 2%. Additionally, nearly seven in 10 adults in Mali cannot read or write, indicating a scarcity of education.

The Correlation Between Malian Poverty and Human Trafficking

Mali has been beset by instability and violence since a 2012 military coup d’état and the capture of the northern territory. The country remains in a state of desperation due to its economic and social crises. The financial insecurity has made it simple — as many observers viewed — to fall victim to human trafficking practices.

Mali falls short of meeting the minimal benchmarks for the abolition of human trafficking. As a result, human traffickers can continue to exploit both internal and international victims. Many of these migrants are fleeing crisis zones in Mali, Nigeria and Senegal.

Mali is a supplier, route and destination country for international trafficking, according to the State Department. Lured to Mali with assurances of high-paying jobs, organizations, which include violent fundamentalists like Al-Qaeda “affiliates” abduct many of them. Job seekers also labor to “pay off” fictitious debts that the organizations that invited them to the country in the first place tell them they owe.

Why Mali?

Despite its poverty, Mali is rich in gold and oil. Yet, to benefit from those resources, Mali needs miners. This attracts refugees, women and children, who traffickers could ultimately coerce. Juvenile prostitution and child sex trafficking are common at mining sites. In fact, more than 12% of sex workers at these locations are as young as 15 and as old as 19, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.

A disproportionate number of males work in certain mines, exposing them to the most heinous types of child labor, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse. “Children are being forced to fight by armed groups, trafficked, raped, sold, forced into sexual or domestic servitude or married off,” Gillian Triggs, the Refugee Agency’s assistant high commissioner for protection, told Reuters in December 2020.

Assistance to Mali

There are many human trafficking solutions, yet they are difficult to implement. Global attention and vigorous effort to alleviate Mali’s exploited and trafficked workers dilemma remain in initial phases. While the U.N., the State Department and a number of non-governmental organizations said they are aware of trafficking issues in Mali, the magnitude and precise volume of trafficking and coerced laborers continue to remain unclear.

To help with these issues, the Roman Catholic Church-affiliated Caritas Mali has assembled an international team to build an initiative alongside the International Catholic Migration Commission,  providing underprivileged individuals and children with alternative income and skill development opportunities.

Mali’s education system is deficient, and this new initiative may make fewer people desire to work in deplorable conditions. Many believe that human trafficking thrives on the instability that poverty creates. Thus, eliminating poverty could then, in turn, mitigate trafficking problems.

Many groups are attempting to assist those in poverty in Mali including Action Against Hunger. To date, it has helped more than 400,000 people gain access to nutrition and health programs, food security programs and sanitation programs. Another organization providing aid is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace, which collaborates with the U.N. World Food Program to deliver financial assistance and meals to families that dislocation, violence, environmental catastrophes and other crises have impacted.

Save the Children is another organization helping nearly 1.5 million Malian children in 2020 by giving food and protection. The organization says it effectively raised 232,000 children out of poverty.

The work of Save the Children, Action Against Hunger and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Food for Peace are helping reduce the symptoms of poverty such as food insecurity and poor sanitation. These efforts should subsequently reduce people’s vulnerability and eliminate human trafficking in Mali.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

Olympic Stars
There are three Olympic stars who have not only earned gold medals in their individual and team competitions, but also in providing support for children around the world. During the late months of July 2021 and early August 2021, these stars’ faces were present on television stations, as people watched them compete against other nations in sports. However, media does not always show their behind-the-scenes work.

Despite traveling to new countries every four years and having children of their own, these stars have devoted both time and money toward organizations. They are not just traveling around the world, they are also changing it. Here are three Olympic stars making a difference.

Allyson Felix

Many people know Allyson Felix for her speedy running skills on the track, competing in the past three Olympics and bringing home six gold medals. However, the star does much more than this. Since 2011, Felix has been a supporter of Right to Play, after visiting a program in Lebanon and continuing to devote funds toward vulnerable children.

Right to Play is an organization with a focus on providing children with an education and protection. Its main goal is to protect these children from the harsh realities of war and abuse and teach important life lessons regarding relationships and sexual health, by teaching children the importance of graduating from school and receiving a degree.

The main areas of focus are games, sport, creative and free play. Through these areas, Right to Play is able to engage these children in healthy ways that allow them to express themselves in a safe way, and overcome obstacles they see and experience each day within their countries. Right to Play has helped reach over 2.3 million children each year, in 14 countries such as Ghana, Mali, Thailand and Uganda.

In a chance to win yet another gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Felix has committed to donating a portion of her earnings toward Right to Play. Through her continued advocacy and visits to other countries along with Right to Play, Felix has continued this organization’s legacy, as well as the importance of helping children in underdeveloped countries.

Michael Phelps

Phelps is one of the most decorated Olympians and many know him as one of the best swimmers in history. Phelps’ love for swimming prompted the creation of the Michael Phelps Foundation in 2008 with the money he earned from the Beijing Olympics. The Foundation’s main focus is to promote water safety and to provide children with the encouragement that all their dreams can come true.

Named as a Global Ambassador in 2011 from Special Olympics China, Phelps has continued to provide opportunities for children through the use of his IM program. The IM program is a program that the Michael Phelps Foundation designed to help children overcome the fear of drowning and other water-related accidents. Since 2011, children from more than 35 countries have received the opportunity to become more confident and faster swimmers through the work of Phelps and his program.

Serena Williams

Tennis star Serena Williams created the Serena Williams Fund, which has the main goal to create equity and promote education for children in other countries. Over the years, Williams has partnered with various organizations in a quest to design and build new schools. In 2019, Williams helped build the Salt Marsh Elementary School in Jamaica through her Foundation, in partnership with Helping Hands Jamaica.

Currently, Williams serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF continuing to build schools and provide an education for vulnerable children. UNICEF mainly tailors these initiatives toward children of Africa and Asia, but Williams’ work in providing an education for children extends far beyond that.

These three Olympic stars have made significant strides in combating inequities through work with several organizations. Through their continued work, circumstances should only improve.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Mali
Mali, an agriculturally economic-based country, has faced several challenges throughout its history. The impact of COVID-19 Mali has greatly affected the country as well. Challenges in Mali, like an economic recession heightened due to COVID-19 and multiple military coups, have pushed thousands of citizens into poverty but global organizations are aiming to mitigate the nation’s challenges.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Mali

Though the COVID-19 numbers are significantly lower in Mali than in other countries, the overall “strained” healthcare systems throughout developing countries in Africa have grand economic impacts. In Mali, for example, cotton production decreased by 79% in 2020 due to lower international prices and “disputes” over the distribution of fertilizer to farmers, as a result of the pandemic.

Mali’s population includes more than 20 million people and is located in Western Africa, landlocked between five countries. The pandemic caused international trade to decline in the nation and therefore slowed domestic revenue, causing the country to enter a recession. Public debt in the country increased by more than 44% for the nation’s overall GDP. According to a Business Pulse Survey, more than 83% of enterprises interviewed in the country lost revenue in 2020 and 12% had to shut down.

The health, security, social and political crises in 2020 caused the nation’s poverty levels to increase by 5%. More than 900,000 individuals ended up in poverty in Mali during the pandemic.

“Widespread” poverty exists in Mali with almost half or 49% living in extreme poverty. This is the third youngest country in the world where the mean age of the population is 16.2 years. Rapid population growth with more than five children per woman in Mali contributes to the rising levels of poverty because there are so many people living in confined spaces with limited access to daily needs.

In addition to the economic recession, international support was slow in Mali after another military coup. On May 24, 2021, military forces arrested Mali’s transitional President and Prime Minister after their announcement of a new cabinet did not include previous higher-up individuals who expected to serve in the new government. Almost 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers are stationed in Mali for fear of growing ties with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and no one is currently running the country “effectively,” according to The Washington Post.

How Mali’s Government is Providing Aid

The government plans to issue COVID-19 relief assistance to its citizens, like implementing tax breaks and increasing social spending by 100 billion CFAF. It plans to allocate a COVID-19 fund of 500 billion CFAF, amounting to roughly $898,000. The report issued from the World Bank does not specifically outline how the tax breaks will undergo distribution to citizens, however, the report suggests that the government might have to reduce “non-essential expenditures” to reallocate funds to its citizens.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization aiming to provide clean water, shelter, health care, education and empowerment support to “refugees and displaced people,” is aiming to provide increased resources for citizens’ economic well-being, health and education. The committee intends to support public health services already in place in Mali to sustain the healthcare services and create public health “structures.” The programs included in their goals will focus on addressing “recurrent” food shortages, asset losses and poor harvests due to climate “conditions and conflict.”

In 2012, IRC aided Mali community members through outlets like loan assistance and “income-generating activities,” to women, in particular, providing clean drinking water, treatment kits, water rehabilitation sites and health care supplies. IRC also facilitated community health training for workers in the area.

The Feed the Future Initiative

Other programs, like the Feed the Future initiative under USAID, address poverty in Mali through the investment of cereals and livestock. These two agricultural products provide the most food security, nutrition and poverty reduction for the country’s people. More than 400,000 Malian farmers applied Feed the Future concepts to their work and increased technology or management practices to further their production.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

The World Food Programme (WFP), a food assistance program that is part of the United Nations, also supplied food assistance in 2019 to more than 700,000 individuals. About 18% of the population or 3.6 million people experience food insecurity in the nation every year since a 2012 crisis occurred in Mali. The U.S. Agency for International Development, also partnered with WFP, established “in-kind” food and cash transfers for households affected by challenges like displacement, conflict and natural disasters as of May 6, 2020.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has been detrimental to many of the world’s poorest countries but social programs have come to light during the pandemic to help impoverished countries. The number of social protection programs increased from 103 in 2015 to 1,141 by December 2020 to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on Mali and other developing nations.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Mali
Mali currently has no legislation that criminalizes female genital mutilation (FGM). In 1997, the government committed to criminalizing FGM. Two years later, the Ministry of Health issued a directive banning it in public health facilities. However, despite a comprehensive reform plan, Mali did not implement any laws against FGM.

About Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation is the practice of removing some or all of the external female reproductive organ for no medical purpose. The World Health Organization (WHO) divides FGM into four types. Type I is the removal of the clitoral hood and/or the clitoral glans. Meanwhile, Type II is the removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, possibly accompanied by the removal of the labia majora. Type III involves narrowing the vaginal opening, leaving only a very small hole for menstruation and urination. Finally, Type IV is any other mutilation to the external female reproductive system, such as piercing or cauterizing. The most common forms of FGM in Mali are Types I and II, although some southern regions of the country practice Type III.

The Dangers of FGM

FGM has no health benefits and many side effects, some of which are deadly. It can cause chronic pain, mental health issues, scarring, future surgeries, risk of childbirth complications, urinary, vaginal and menstruation problems and other issues.

The History of FGM

Research traces the origin of FGM to Egypt in the fifth-century B.C.E. The original reasons for the practice are unclear, but evidence from Somalia and Egypt ties it to preventing female slaves from reproducing. Today, the practice is widespread across the northern half of Africa.

FGM is largely a cultural practice, and in Mali, societal pressures often result in mutilation before 5-years-old. Communities practice FGM for a variety of reasons, from decreasing girls’ and women’s libido to fulfilling a prerequisite for marriage. Although no religion endorses FGM, 70% of Malian women aged 15-49 believe that it is a religious requirement, and 75.8% believe it should continue.

Nearly 90% of Malian women and girls aged 15-49 have at least one type of genital mutilation. The regions with the highest rates of FGM are Kayes, Koulikoro, Sikasso and Ségou and Bamako, the capital. All have rates above 90%.

The Path to Legislation Banning FGM

As of June 2021, Mali has not criminalized female genital mutilation despite the harm that the procedure does. Millions of girls remain at risk not only in Mali but across the world. Thirty countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia still have not outlawed FGM.

However, advocacy groups and global governments are working to end FGM, and they have made great progress over the past 20 years. Since 1997, 26 countries in Africa and the Middle East have outlawed FGM. Furthermore, members of communities that practice FGM have begun to oppose the procedure in increasing numbers.

Communities abandoning FGM of their own volition is the fastest way to end the practice. Since 2019, the organizations Healthy Tomorrow and Sini Sanuman have worked to end female genital mutilation in Mali by changing minds. With the help of donations, they have renewed three anti-FGM billboards in Bamako and also created a TV trailer, “In the Name of Your Daughter,” which shows how Tanzanian police officers, courthouses, and safehouses protect young girls from FGM.

Despite the existence of FGM in Mali, the fact that many nearby countries in the area have banned it shows promise for the country. Hopefully, through the work of organizations like Healthy Tomorrow and Sini Sanuman, Mali will soon eliminate FGM as well.

Ana Golden
Photo: Flickr

fight against poverty in MaliMali ranks 175th out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index. Due to a complex web of social and geographical problems, more than half of the population in Mali lives below the poverty line. The combination of a harsh, unforgiving climate and severe political instability leaves Mali extremely vulnerable to the onset of poverty and food insecurity. However, in response to these conditions, organizations are entering the fight against poverty in Mali through strategies and solutions.

The State of Poverty in Mali

Geographic complications constitute a significant source of poverty in Mali. Agriculture is the number one employer in Mali, yet roughly 65% of Mali’s geographic area is designated as desert or semi-desert. This means that most of the agricultural activity in Mali is restricted to the fertile area near the Niger River. As a result, the country is vulnerable to changes in the climate as well as natural disasters like droughts. Mali’s tenuous agricultural dependence means that food insecurity is a major issue in the country. In fact, malnutrition is the second leading cause of death in children age 5 and below.

Mali’s situation has only grown direr since 2012 when civil war broke out after a coup d’etat by insurgents. In the years since, violence has been a constant. After the initial coup, other insurgent groups like ISIS seized the opportunity to move into a volatile area, further exacerbating Mali’s problems.

Organizations Working to Address Poverty in Mali

There are several organizations working toward poverty eradication in Mali today. From foreign aid agencies to nonprofit organizations and think tanks, diverse groups are working to address poverty in Mali. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) addresses poverty in Mali on multiple dimensions. This includes agriculture and food security; democracy and good governance; environmental changes; education; global health and climate management. USAID has had particular success employing poverty reduction strategies in the agricultural sphere. Through USAID assistance in 2018, more than 404,000 farmers in Mali were able to apply improved technologies to their agricultural practices.

In 2016, Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, started the Innovation Lab for Food Security in Mali. The innovation lab conducts research on things such as the type of fertilizer farmers in Mali use and how potential innovations in agricultural technology can help fight food insecurity.

Innovations for Poverty Action

Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is another organization taking action to spur innovations in poverty eradication in Mali. The IPA first opened an office in Mali in 2010. However, the IPA relocated its base from Mali to Burkina Faso after the coup but remains active in Mali to this day. Much like USAID, IPA conducts research on different factors that exacerbate poverty in Mali. IPA is studying innovations in agriculture, global health and other fields to evaluate their potential utility in the fight against poverty in Mali.

The fight against poverty in Mali includes fighting political instability as well. There are several successful innovations in this area. For example, the global cybersecurity company Kaspersky expanded into West Africa in 2020. Kaspersky’s expansion will drastically improve intelligence capabilities against violent insurgent groups. With intervention from foreign aid and collective action to eradicate poverty, Mali’s future is looking brighter.

Leo Ratté
Photo: Flickr