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