Living Conditions in Mali
Mali is a West African nation that is abundantly rich with culture and history; however, it is ranked at 16 out of the world’s 20 poorest countries. As a result of a vulnerable economy, the citizens of this vibrant nation have endured continuous economic hardships. Listed below are details regarding the top 10 facts about living conditions in Mali.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mali

  1. A large number of people in Mali have epilepsy. In Mali, It is estimated that fifteen out of 1,000 people are afflicted with epilepsy, including young children. Unfortunately, in developing countries, only 6 percent of those with epilepsy receive sufficient medical treatment. The poor living conditions in Mali for these individuals is caused by social stigmas and supernatural ideologies that have remained prevalent in Africa despite advances in clinical treatment. The Ministries of Health and Education are collaborating with traditional healers to create educational campaigns that oppose the spreading of misinformation about epilepsy.
  2. Rural women have a harder time accessing health care services. Approximately 90 percent of Mali’s destitute population lives in rural areas. A majority of women living in rural areas are unable to afford modern preventive and maternal health care. Alternatively, they resort to using traditional medicines. During illness or pregnancy, women in these communities depend on social support from their daughters and mothers-in-law. Furthermore, the husband is responsible for gathering financial assistance from his family to support his ailing wife.
  3. Malnutrition causes significant health risks for children. Predicted increases in hunger could have disastrous impacts on the well-being of Mali’s youngest citizens. Children between the ages of six and 59 months are more at risk for anemia, with a prevalence of 82 percent. Out of the 16,391 children surveyed for malnutrition, 376 were suffering from severe to acute malnutrition and another 1,646 with moderate acute malnutrition in 2013-13.
    Policymakers may concentrate on implementing adaptive measures that focus on projected areas of climate change and food vulnerability that could reduce the financial and health repercussions of climate change in Mali.
  4. Hazardous conditions are affecting adolescents. Adolescents in Mali are at risk for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) associated diseases. Approximately 2.8 billion cases of diarrhea affect children annually. Furthermore, infections associated with WASH often lead to a decline in academic achievements. The Ministry of Primary Education has reported that only 44 percent of primary schools in Mali have access to a water point, and a bathroom was only installed in 58 percent of the schools. The WASH program was implemented to provide hygiene improvements such as establishing water points, toilets and providing hygiene products to schools.
  5. There are significantly low educational completion rates. In 2006 through 2007, the completion rate for primary education in Mali was only 54 percent. Educational obstacles are especially severe for children living in rural areas. It is estimated that more than 890,000 children in Mali from ages seven to 12 are not enrolled in school; that is four out of 10 children who are not receiving a basic elementary education. Educational improvements and increased education funding are important factors in improving the living conditions in Mali. However, in 2006, only 8.5 percent of all international aid was allocated to Mali’s education sector.
  6. Household income doesn’t translate to child well-being. The living conditions in Mali are generally assessed by the poverty level of each individual household. However, the unique needs of children are not always addressed by household level incomes. For example, regions such as Tombouctou have poverty rates below the average at 33 percent, but a child deprivation level of 72 percent. Whereas, in Sikasso, where the poverty rates are at 86 percent, 37 percent of the children are not deprived. Prospective analyses of Mali’s child poverty levels can serve as potential intervention guides.
  7. Extreme poverty is on the decline. An individual living on less than $1.90 a day is considered to be in extreme poverty. Between 2011 and 2013, the extreme poverty rate in Mali increased from 47.8 percent to 50.4 percent. However, as a result of successful agricultural production, the rate fell to 42.7 percent in 2017. Industrialized agriculture is imperative to improving the living conditions in Mali.
  8. Mali’s agricultural outlook is positive. Nearly two-thirds of Mali is covered by the Saharan desert. However, despite the geographical barriers, Mali has the highest agricultural potential of the Sahel Region where 80 percent of Malians rely on rain-fed agriculture to make a living.
  9. The economy is improving. The living conditions in Mali have been significantly influenced by economic and monetary changes. Mali’s economic climate is improving; since 2014, Mali has had a 5 percent increase in economic growth every year. Furthermore, Local banks are starting to expand their lending portfolios, and the investment climate is profiting from the monetary and economic improvements due to an increase in foreign investment.
  10. Rural citizens adapt to climate variability. Mali has undergone significant environmental, cultural and economic changes. Citizens in rural areas often depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Therefore, to cope with the climate changes that affect their resources, citizens along with development planners are adapting strategies to support sustainable local investments.

The living conditions in Mali are based on an intricate junction of resource scarcity and economic mobility. With the support of global investors and the contributions of scientific researchers, improvements in industrial, educational and agricultural disparities are being made and better living conditions are being improved. However, further legislative conversations must occur in order to ensure the preservation of intervention programs and foreign investment continues.

– Sabia Combrie
Photo: Flickr

History of Ebola in MaliHistory of Ebola in Mali began in October 2014 when Aminata Gueye Tamboura tried to protect her (non-biological) granddaughters from the Ebola outbreak in Guinea. They traveled back to her home in Mali by taxis, buses and public transportation, while one of the girls, Fanta Condé, had symptoms of fever and nosebleeds. The two-year-old was brought to the Fousseyni Daou Hospital and was diagnosed with Ebola on October 23. One day later, she passed away.

The Spread of Ebola in Mali

Condé’s diagnosis was especially alarming because of the amount of people she could have made contact with throughout their journey to Mali. Once notified, WHO tracked down and quarantined 108 people who may have been exposed to Condé. Notably, no one in that group showed symptoms throughout the 21-day quarantine and were released in November.

On October 27, a few days following Condé’s death, another Ebola victim passed away. The imam had travelled to Mali from Guinea in search of a treatment for kidney failure he had for about one month. While doctors did not diagnose him, kidney failure is associated with late-stage Ebola. Soon after his visit to the Pasteur Clinic in Bamako, a nurse became sick and died, raising concerns about Ebola. On November 11, the nurse’s diagnosis of Ebola was confirmed. The hospital and areas that the imam and nurse had visited were quarantined, allowing health authorities to learn that a doctor at the clinic had Ebola as well.

Preventing the Spread of Ebola in Mali

In response to these outbreaks, emergency teams made from organizations such as WHO, Medecins Sans Frontieres, the United Nations and others were deployed in Mali. Certain groups already had a presence in Mali due to its shared borders with countries with Ebola outbreaks, allowing them to immediately take action. The history of Ebola in Mali was dramatically shorter than in neighboring African countries, largely because of the efforts of these organizations.

WHO, for example, was able to test blood samples in hours, hastening the process of diagnosis. They trained over 900 health workers to appropriately handle the outbreak. Preventative measures were taken as well; WHO provided hand washing facilities and temperature checks at hospital entry points.

In accordance with the tradition of diatiguiya, Mali did choose to keep its borders open. It continued to practice hospitality with its neighbors, despite the challenging circumstances at the time. Health checks were put in place, however, as preventative measures.

By January 6, 2015, the CDC had removed travel warnings in Mali, deeming it safe. On January 8, Mali was officially declared Ebola-free. The last Ebola patient tested negative on December 6, 2014, and no cases of ebola have come about since. The history of Ebola in Mali lasted a short few months because Mali effectively contained the virus wherever it appeared. In other West African countries, people were reluctant to believe in the Ebola virus and did not adhere to the recommended precautions, but Malians were more cooperative. The joint effort of citizens and aid groups ultimately lead to the successful containment of the Ebola virus in Mali.

– Massarath Fatima

Photo: Flickr

Electricity Coverage Rising in AfricaIt is hard to imagine life without electricity. In the American standard of living, electricity pervades every aspect of a person’s life, from food storage to entertainment and everything in between. In Africa, however, only 30 percent of people have access to electricity.

Power Africa

Power Africa is a USAID agency that aims to provide people in Africa with access to electricity. They plan to make 60 new electricity connections and generate 30,000 more megawatts (MW) of electricity across the continent by 2030. The goal is to do this by harnessing the sun, wind, lake water, and natural gas to power rural areas that do not have access to electricity.

Power Africa tracks its progress on various projects by tracking business transactions with African power companies. For example, in 2016, they made a deal with the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative (ACEF), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Department of State to provide $30 million worth of financing of 32 renewable energy projects in 10 countries in Africa. With Power Africa’s help, 90 business transactions have been completed and 25 of Africa’s 55 countries now have access to some form of electricity. Examples from Power Africa actions are described in a text below.

Mali

Although the demand for electricity in Mali is currently greater than the supply, that does not mean that there is no supply at all. Electricity in Mali currently comes from mostly hydraulic and thermal energy (55 and 44 percent, respectively). Power Africa plans to help Mali produce an additional 80 MW of hydroelectric energy, more than 300 MW from biomass, and unlimited MW from the sun.

Electricity usage has already gone up in Mali. Major mining companies increased their energy consumption by 136 MW (189 percent) between 2008 and 2011. In 2016, the government passed a law mandating partnerships between public and private electric companies in order to increase MW production. The ultimate goal is to make an additional 20,000 MW of energy and distribute it to 50 million people by 2020.

Namibia

Currently, Namibia gets most of its electricity from power grids in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and other nearby countries. However, electricity demand in these countries is way higher than supply, forcing Namibia to find ways to generate its own electricity. As of 2008, Namibia can only generate 393 MW from 3 stations, while the national demand is 533 MW.

One of these stations, the Ruacana power station, is dependent on the flow of water from the Kunene River, which flows out of Angola. Another station, the coal-run Eck power station, is costly to operate and maintain. Eck, along with the oil-based Paratus power station, is only used for short-term peaks in electricity demand.

For the time being, Namibia still needs to have its electricity needs met by its neighbors. The Caprivi link is a transmission line that connects Namibia’s power grid to those in Zambia and Zimbabwe. This provides the country with an additional 600 MW, fulfilling Namibia’s electricity needs. In 2007, Namibia consumed 3.6 TWh of electricity.

Tanzania

Most of Tanzania’s electricity (90 percent) comes from biomass. This has resulted in mass deforestation and, thus, is far from ideal for the ecosystem. Only 18.4 percent of Tanzanian citizens have access to electricity in any form. Currently, the country is financially incapable of extending the power grid into all rural areas.

In 1975, the government founded the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Ltd (TANESCO). TANESCO has a nationwide monopoly on electricity production and distribution. However, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals (MEM) is trying to end this monopoly by allowing companies to get licenses to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. The Rural Energy Agency (REA) is slowly getting electricity into rural areas. With these services, the government aims to make electricity available to everyone in Tanzania, and one can see electricity coverage rising from their efforts.

Conclusion

In the modern day, electricity seems like a basic ingredient for life that it seems like everyone should have it. The people in Power Africa agree and we can see electricity coverage rising in Africa as a result of their efforts. Mali is making more energy from more sources than ever, Namibia is starting to make its own electricity, and Tanzania is spreading electricity out as far as it can. Africa is becoming more and more electrified, reaching the ultimate goal- provide access to electricity for everyone on the continent.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Mali
Mali is a landlocked country located in West Africa with a population of approximately 18 million people. While the national poverty fell from 55.6 percent in 2001 to 43.6 percent in 2010, Mali remains 175th out of 188 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index.

Diagnosing the Problem

Credit access in Mali stands out as one the leading impediments to economic growth. A smallholder farmer is refused a loan seven times out of ten because of the high risk and unpredictable nature associated with the agricultural sector. This difficulty accessing credit is only further compounded by the fact that about 80 percent of the entire labor force actively participates in farming.

Credit serves an important role in the growth of developing countries’ economies. Increased credit access in Mali is essential for allowing farmers, businesses and consumers across Mali to utilize investment capital and thus help expand economic activity. If 70 percent of farmers are refused loans from the start in a country where 80 percent of the workforce is engaged in farming, significant economic growth becomes nearly impossible.  

Moussa Sylvain Diakite, a mango producer and exporter in Bamako, explains this discrepancy noting that “Malian banks have a commercial focus and not an agricultural one which is why they struggle to accompany agricultural activities.”

Improving Credit Access in Mali

One of the leading initiatives to improve credit access in Mali is the Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project. Led by the Malian government and the World Bank, the program hopes to provide financial support to both individual Mali farmers seeking credit and commercial banks. By enfranchising Mali farmers and reducing risk for commercial banks that offer them loans, the Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project will help scale agricultural production and the number of small and medium enterprises throughout Mali.

Above all, the Project works to “reduce the risk of investing in agriculture endeavors through technical assistance, new technologies, and greater knowledge of the supply chain and key actors,” according to World Bank Agribusiness Specialist Yeyande Kasse Sangho.

Benefits of Greater Credit Access in Mali

Researchers who partnered with Soro Yiriwaso, a microfinance institution in Mali, conducted a two-stage randomized evaluation in 198 villages in rural Mali. The findings point to agricultural lending as an effective means of increasing investments in the agricultural sector, as well as increasing profits and yields.

Village households which were offered loans spent about $10.35 more on fertilizer and $5.08 more on herbicides and insecticides than the households in villages that did not get loans. These loans also contributed to an increase in the value of agricultural output by $32. Many of these households also received grants invested 14 percent more on inputs than households that did not receive grants. Those households also saw output and farm profits increase by 13 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

As the relationships between farmers and commercial banks strengthen, credit access will only continue to spread in Mali and enable further economic growth. With continued efforts and projects as the ones mentioned above, there’s significant hope that the focus on credit access in Mali will serve as an example for the economic development of other impoverished regions.

– McAfee Sheehan
Photo: Flickr

Child Malnutrition in MaliAfrica is the only continent in the world in which poverty and malnutrition are on the rise. In a vast country with an undiversified economy, Malian households are especially vulnerable to poverty food insecurity.

Recently, Mali has faced “shocks” to its economic profile, including from a partial drought and internal strife. A 2013 World Bank study found that a 25 percent increase in cereal prices and 25 percent decrease in cereal production would push over 600,000 individuals to food insecurity levels in Mali. In addition, sustainably high population growth rates have risen the number of malnourished individuals in the country.

Effects of Child Malnutrition in Mali

While millions of Malians of all ages are affected by food insecurity, malnutrition is the second highest cause of death of children under the age of five. Almost 900,000 Mali children are at risk of global acute malnutrition in Mali, including 274,000 facing severe malnutrition and at risk of imminent death, according to UNICEF and the World Bank. To put this in the context of the country’s population, a 2013 World Bank study found that 44 percent of Malian households have at least one chronically malnutritioned child.

Malnutrition leads to devastating, long-lasting effects on young people. Research by an associate professor at the Federal University of São Paulo, Ana Lydia Saway, shows that malnutrition is linked to higher susceptibility to gain central fat, lower energy expenditure, higher blood pressure and disruptions in insulin production. These are all factors which heighten the risk of other chronic diseases later in life. 

How Mali is Combatting the Issue

Child malnutrition in Mali is a significant concern, requiring action and deserving worldwide attention. But a major problem limiting international assistance comes in the form of funding for aid.

In May, UNICEF reported that limited donor interest in the region has made it increasingly difficult for the organization to provide children with therapeutic food necessary to combat malnutrition. Funding for humanitarian organizations is low, as nearly 80 percent of UNICEF’s $37 million call for humanitarian aid for the year 2018 has not been raised.

“The children of Mali are suffering in silence, away from the world’s attention,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said during a visit to the country this year. “Amid increasing violence, more children are going hungry, missing out on learning and dying in the first days of life.”  

Still, community and international-based organizations are working to mitigate the effects of child malnutrition in Mali. For example, in the capital of Ségou Centre, the local population, with the help of the World Bank and Swiss Corporation agency, is working to provide necessary social services to its commune.

The third phase of this project involved the decentralizing of health facilities, which were starchly underequipped. The commune recently constructed a community health center, showing promising bottom-up action within Mali. Other organizations are helping out to create sustainable progress in development, including Groundswell International.

Furthermore, farmers and processors in Mali have been working together to increase the presence of Misola flour to combat malnutrition. During processing, vitamins and minerals are added to the flour, targeting those with nutritional deficiencies. 

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that Misola can help rehabilitate undernourished children and help those with depressed immune systems. “The porridge made from the flour allows for a nutritional transition from breast milk to traditional solid food,” Fernand Rolet, co-President of the Misola Association, said. 

Overcoming Child Malnutrition Globally

Rwanda provides a prime example that overcoming child malnutrition is possible. The nation, which has a similar wealth level to Mali, has made progress in lowering malnutrition levels. A 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Access Report found that the level of stunting in young children dropped seven percent from three years prior. In Rwanda, the World Food Programme has been largely active, supplying food assistance such as providing meals for thousands of primary school children.

Combating malnutrition is an ongoing struggle, especially in Africa. Due to poor economic conditions and food scarcity, malnutrition continues to take the lives of thousands of children in Mali each year. Although citizens have founded programs to improve child nutrition and the issue is on humanitarian aid organizations’ radars, it is clear that more effort is needed to eradicate the problem. With continued efforts, child malnutrition in Mali will begin to decline.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

Empower Mali FoundationMali Presidential Candidate Niankoro Yeah Samake is promoting self-reliance through his Empower Mali Foundation. Samake spoke at a forum on the Brigham Young University-Idaho campus on May 17, discussing how consistent small actions focused on others can bring about great change.

To begin the change for his home village of Ouelessebougou, Samake ran for mayor when he noticed that the government wasn’t utilizing the taxpayers’ money effectively and was becoming more corrupt. Samake won the election by 86 percent and his first order of business was to get the community to trust the government again.

Members of the community started to pay their taxes and Samake showed them exactly where the money was going, where it was coming from and how much they had, unlike previous government rule. Those in Ouelessebougou were able to build a hospital, high school, have running water, electricity and solar panels. Within two years, Samake was able to move Ouelessebougou from the bottom five of Mali’s 704 districts to the top ten.

“The citizens were able to see the power of integrity,” Samake said. “They could see what could be achieved when leaders and citizens work together in an honest and productive way.”

Samake said that Mali needs a leader that would put them first, and he is running in Mali’s next presidential election.

Creating the Empower Mali Foundation

While he was a mayor, Samake created the Empower Mali Foundation to address the growing need in the areas of education, healthcare and access to basic necessities in the rural communities of Mali. The foundation’s goal is to have the issues of individual communities resolved by the community members themselves.

This foundation wants each community within Mali to become self-reliant. The communities initiate the demand for projects and also contribute through cost, land or labor. By being involved, community members are more likely to maintain their project and become self-sustainable.

Empower Mali Foundation works in five main sections:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Clean Energy
  • Clean Water
  • Leadership Training

Education

At 31 percent, Mali has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Many Malian villages don’t have the adequate funding for schools or training for teachers. The foundation focuses on resources in school construction and repair, school supplies, adult literacy, job skills training and technology skills.

Healthcare

The average life expectancy for a citizen of Mali is 52 years. This can be due to many different diseases in the area, and the fact that there isn’t adequate training for doctors in more rural parts of Mali.

The Empower Mali Foundation focuses on providing additional health care training, arranging and implementing healthcare expeditions and supplying hygiene kits to communities in need.

Clean Energy

Less than one percent of Mali has access to electricity. The majority of Mali citizens rely on wood and charcoal burning fires to supply energy to their village. The Empower Mali Foundation focuses its resources on the installation of solar panels.

Clean Water

The second leading cause of death in low-income countries is diarrheal diseases. This is because of poor sanitation and no access to clean water. More than one-third of Mali does not have access to clean water. To address this, the Empower Mali Foundation is focusing its resources to install water tanks and water pumps, dig wells and cover current water sources.

Leadership Training

Many people locate in rural Mali don’t have enough information on what local governments do for them. Along with little communication, the poor level of skills and capacities of the duty-holders restrict the full involvement of the people.

The Empower Mali Foundation wants to focus its resources on training local leaders for success by arranging governance summits between local leaders in Mali and other countries. The foundation also wants to implement local participation in order to teach youth to better understand and engage in the local governance process.

The Empower Mali Foundation has completed many projects such as the donation of school kits, hygiene and dental kits and the successful installation of the first electricity-generating playground in Ferekoroba.

The Empower Mali Foundation’s projects take steps to make communities in Mali more self-reliant and sustainable. It is continuing to pursue its goal to raise Mali out of poverty, one community at a time.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in MaliIn 2011, the U.N. reported Mali as an arduous place for girls to get an education – and it hasn’t improved. Mali is ranked sixth on the list of worst countries for girls to obtain an education. Historically, education has never been of high priority in Mali, so it’s no surprise that Malian girls are still fighting to be liberated through education. How can the world address girls’ education in Mali?

More than 130 million girls around the world are out of school. Most of them are in poor countries like Mali, where the achievement rate for education is 54 percent for boys and 44.8 percent for girls. Due to factors like gender inequality, boys in Mali complete school at a faster rate than girls and tend to be more literate.

The Role of a Girl

By age 14, young Malian girls are expected to marry, forcing them to leave school. Prior to marriage, younger girls are late to school or fail to appear at all due to expectations in the home like cleaning, cooking and caring for family members. In a study on girls access to education in 122 countries, it was reported that only 38 percent of Malian girls had completed primary school. Subsequently, the dropout rate for Malian girls is more than 50 percent, leaving a small 22.2 percent with the ability to read.

The CARE organization, whose goal is to end poverty, has stepped out as a leader for empowering women and girls. CARE Mali understands that forced marriages diminish the chances of successful girls’ education in Mali. They’re using financial efforts to target child marriage and gender-based violence — disparities that hinder Malian girls from being fully educated — to put women in the workforce. More women working helps stabilize the Malian economy and helps young girls focus on education rather than marrying young and tending to other adults in the home.

Because I Am A Girl

Plan International established the Because I Am A Girl movement to help empower young girls with barriers to education through a four-part initiative:

  1. Learn – Access to a safe, quality education
  2. Lead – Involvement in sociopolitical conversations
  3. Decide – Have a voice on when to marry
  4. Thrive – Choose a path free of inequality and violence

Hope for Girls’ Education in Mali

Of the Malian population, 49.97 percent are female and nearly half of them can’t read and don’t have continual access to education. But things are changing for girls’ education in Mali, with help. The U.N. Girls Education Initiative established a scholarship for girls in northern Mali to encourage them to remain in school. World Education works with local parent and mother associations to encourage the breaking away from traditional norms, which allows their young girls to focus on getting an education instead.

Although progress is underway in Mali, continual efforts must be made by organizations and governments to address access to girls’ education in Mali.

– Naomi C. Kellogg
Photo: Flickr

Child Mortality Rates in Mali
Mali
, a West African country with one of the highest child mortality rates in the world, has developed a health outreach program that is drastically reducing child mortality rates. Muso, a nonprofit organization, is fighting child mortality rates in Mali, where 78 percent of the population is living in some form of poverty.

Muso trains local Malians to become community health workers, who then go door-to-door in both rural and urban areas of the country to seek out sick children and provide on-site treatment. The healthcare package that the organization provides includes treatment for malnutrition, malaria and diarrhea, as well as family planning information. For only $8 per year per person, this program is able to provide healthcare services to millions of Malians across the West African nation.

Most of the community healthcare workers are women, giving the organization its namesake. In Bambara, a lingua franca and the national language of Mali, “muso” means woman. A well-known Malian proverb reads, “If you educate a woman, you educate her family, her community and her entire country.”

The program has been operating since 2005 and has already shown very promising results. Scholars from the University of Harvard, University of Southern California San Francisco and the Malian Ministry of Health conducted a repeated cross-sectional survey of the intervention from 2008 to 2011. The study found that during the time period, there was a decline in child mortality rates in Mali (child defined here as those under five years old). The study also identified that malarial and febrile illness treatment had nearly doubled during the time of the study compared to the national rates prior to intervention.

It is important to note, however, that the study was not randomized, so researchers cannot definitively conclude that the outcomes are a direct result of the program.

“The leading causes of child death are curable, but they are exquisitely time sensitive”, says Muso founder Dr. Ari Johnson. The organization seeks to remove barriers, such as fiscal constraints, to allow easy access to healthcare in Mali and eliminate preventable deaths that are rooted in poverty.

This nonprofit is reducing child mortality rates in Mali through incredible public outreach. Since the program’s inauguration, Muso has completed 3.2 million home visits with 93 percent of patients being treated within 72 hours, providing comprehensive and rapid care.

Not only is Muso providing healthcare, but it is also working with government-run health services to improve their healthcare delivery. Government-run clinics have fees and lineups that often create delays in care. Muso eliminates these barriers by bringing the care to patients and freeing up space in government-based clinics for those who cannot be treated at home. In addition, Muso provides training, staff and infrastructure to the government clinics, allowing more Malians access to healthcare.

Muso is demonstrating how one nonprofit can aid in reducing child mortality rates in Mali through a unique model of healthcare delivery and is removing barriers to access for many Malians. It will be interesting to see how the organization continues to expand and improve their work in Mali.

– Katherine Kirker

Photo: Flickr

How the U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to MaliA landlocked country in West Africa, Mali gained its independence from France in 1960. It is the eighth largest country in Africa and its population currently consists of 18 million people. As one of the world’s younger nations, Mali still faces many challenges, from the effects of heavy rainfalls and floods to human rights violations such as terrorism and trafficking. In order to overcome these challenges, Mali needs foreign aid. However, there are many ways that the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali.

Since its inception as an independent country, Mali has maintained diplomatic relations with the U.S. Over the years, the foreign aid Mali received from the U.S. has helped it to foster democracy and reduce poverty in the country. For instance, conflict in the country since 2012 has resulted in displacement, and food insecurity still remains an issue in Mali. Due to the foreign aid it received through USAID, Mali has been able to improve the availability of food and basic services, which led to the return of 60,200 displaced people to their areas of origin. Additionally, aid through USAID/OFDA helps improve access to emergency healthcare, protection services, safe drinking water and sanitation infrastructure in Mali.

 

Eradication of Extremism

Similarly, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali since it is committed to the eradication of extremism. Extremism negatively impacts every nation including the U.S., and the focus on Mali is crucial, as it has been called the deadliest country for U.N. peacekeepers. Extremist groups have carried out violent attacks in the country, and most of the recruits associated with such groups explained that their actions were not affected by their religious beliefs. In fact, they expressed the anger they felt due to the longstanding neglect of their communities, which led them to seek a sense of community in extremist groups. In order to eradicate extremism, the USAID has taken some key steps.

Utilizing locally-informed assessment and analysis, USAID has focused on “youth empowerment, social and economic inclusion, media and messaging, improving local governance, reconciliation and conflict mitigation.” The USAID tailors its activities to meet specific threat levels, the political environment and other material needs of each community, especially focusing on groups that need more assistance, such as at-risk young men. Armed bandits and extremists still occupy northern Mali, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the country. Poor governance and extreme poverty contribute to the rise of extremist groups, which is why many of the USAID activities focus on improving these areas.

For instance, in order to stop the spread of extremism and foster development, USAID and Mali have jointly taken a different approach than previous ones that concentrated more on individual projects. USAID and Mali will target the country’s institutional weaknesses while contributing to ending extreme poverty, and the projected $600 million in investments for fiscal years 2016-2010 will focus on four key objectives:

  • Stabilization of Conflict-Affected Areas Reinforced (transition)
  • Public Trust in Government Improved (governance)
  • Adaptive Capacity of Vulnerable Communities and Households Improved (resilience)
  • Socio-Economic Well-Being Advanced (prosperity)

Combating Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is another serious issue in the country. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali because it is committed to fighting human trafficking globally, and Mali is a source, transit and destination country for women, men and children subjected to forced sex and labor trafficking. The government of Mali does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. Hence, the aid it receives from the U.S. makes a considerable difference. For example, foreign aid from the U.S. through the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons provides not only crucial training and technical assistance, but also child protection compact partnerships, emergency victim assistance and research projects that focus on innovative ways to combat human trafficking.

In short, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mali because the latter is facing some dangerous challenges that the U.S. has committed to eradicating. By working together with Mali, the U.S. could help put an end to the violence that is caused by extremism and human trafficking.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr

credit access in MaliFor many of the poor in developing nations, securing loans is often an unfeasible task. Reforms to credit access in Mali, however, are providing much-needed relief to smallholder farmers endeavoring to improve conditions for themselves and their families.

The Importance of Microfinance in Development

The practice of providing access to financial resources and small loans to those in developing nations, known as microfinance, has become the latest instrument in the effort to alleviate poverty. Too often, the world’s poor are denied access to loans, making it exceedingly difficult to start businesses or make capital investments that would enable them to improve productivity and elevate their incomes. Although microfinance across developing economies has yielded mixed results previously, the capacity remains for well-structured and pragmatically targeted initiatives to succeed.

Credit Access in Mali Denied

When these programs are successful, the implications can be powerful, especially for women and smallholder farmers. In developing economies, women reinvest 90 cents of each dollar they earn into “human resources” like healthcare, nutrition and education, according to a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review. This is substantially more than men and illustrates the impact small investment opportunities can have for the well-being of women and their families.

Despite this, securing loans is harder for women because most do not have property in their names to offer as collateral, typically make lending to them impractical. Furthermore, in Mali, 70 percent of loan applications sought by farmers are rejected because they are deemed risk-prohibitive. Because farmers’ incomes typically fluctuate with seasonal variance in agricultural output, banks are usually hesitant to provide financial backing.

Securing loans is also rare for farmers in Mali because banks focus primarily on commercial lending and often refuse the longer term loans many Malian farmers in the young mango, papaya and cashew nut industries need to get their businesses off the ground. Unstable political institutions in the country, like inconsistent enforcement of contracts, and poorly defined property rights further exacerbate these challenges.

Credit Where Credit is Due

An initiative which began in 2013 is addressing these issues and attempting to increase credit access in Mali. The Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project by the World Bank seeks to “reduce the risk of investing in agricultural endeavors through technical assistance, new technology and greater knowledge of the supply chain and key actors,” according to World Bank Agribusiness Specialist Yeyande Kasse Sangho.

To provide loans, the program relies on the Innovation and Investment Fund (IIF) and the Guarantee Fund. The IIF offers a three-tiered lending system with each tier providing different levels of subsidies based on the size of the enterprise, with smaller enterprises receiving a greater subsidy. The Guarantee Fund, also financed by the World Bank, offers up to 50 percent of the loan guarantee, giving a needed cushion to the two commercial banks in Mali receiving the deposits.

In addition to this World Bank initiative, Mali sought in 2016 to improve access to credit by improving its credit information system regarding the regulations of credit bureaus in the West African Economic and Monetary Union. In 2017, it established another credit bureau, doubling-down on its resolve to ensure its citizens have access to capital.

With initiatives like these, Mali is demonstrating its commitment to making accessible credit the new normal for its people. Further improvement to credit access in Mali will only serve to assist in lifting more people out of poverty.

– Brendan Wade

Photo: Wikimedia Commons