Saving Lives in Mali
The words “Health can’t wait” are on the website of the Drapers Richard Kaplan foundation. This foundation helps fund the upstart Muso Health, a venture philanthropy group. The statement captures the essence of the Muso Health mission: to deliver healthcare quickly and affordably to people living in poverty. By taking a unique approach to healthcare, Muso Health is saving lives in Mali.

Muso Health uses a proactive health care model; health care workers receive training to seek out, diagnose and treat patients in local communities. Unfortunately, children can die from malaria within 48 hours of contracting it. The Muso model increases the likelihood a child will get treatment in time.

The Origin

A coalition of Americans and Malians founded Muso Health in 2005. The tragedy of child funerals moved the founders of Muso and motivated them to make health care more accessible. Therefore, they began a simple operation of volunteers, dedicated to saving lives in Mali.

Volunteers assist the communities in Mali’s capital city, Bamako. The organization has expanded since 2005; the Muso Health website boasts that it has “grown 2000-fold.” At the beginning of 2020, an additional 50 new Community Health Workers (CHWs) joined Muso Health.

Muso’s CHWs are a group of local Malians who provide in-home health care. Most CHWs are women, and Muso means “woman” in the Bambara language of Mali. Muso Health chose its name, in part, because of the common Malian expression, “If you educate a woman, you educate her family, her community and her entire country.”

The Approach

Muso is saving lives in Mali through proactive community case management. This strategy consists of three main steps. First, Community Health Workers identify and diagnose sick individuals. If possible, the workers treat the illness on the spot. If not, they refer the patient to a clinic. Therefore, Malian families do not have to seek out treatment and diagnosis.

Muso Health also addresses obstacles to healthcare, including cost. Its door-to-door service eliminates transportation fees for the patient and their family. Additionally, Muso Health removes point-of-care fees, so even the most impoverished families can receive care. Lastly, Muso helps to boost Mali’s public health sector by expanding infrastructure and training providers.

The Impact

Muso was able to visit 358,379 homes during the first quarter of 2020. From January to mid-April of 2020, it treated 92% of peri-urban patients and 67% of rural patients within 24 hours. Thankfully, these efforts seem to be paying off. Studies suggest that Muso Health is having a positive impact on Mali.

A 2018 study in BMJ Global Health shows that the areas where Muso Health operates have seen the lowest rates of child death in Sub-Saharan Africa for five consecutive years. The study demonstrated that the child mortality rate was originally at 15.5%. After Muso interventions, the study found that the child mortality rate dropped to 1.7%. In making health care free, the health care costs shifted to Muso and the Malian government. This change only costs the Malian government an extra $8 per person.

Looking Forward

Ultimately, there is a high demand for innovative health care organizations like Muso Health. According to Muso CEO and Co-founder Ari Johnson, “The World Health Organization has estimated that 100 million people every year are driven into poverty by health-care costs.”

Although larger studies are necessary to determine whether the Muso model will work on a greater scale, Muso Health has been successful in Mali. Johnson and his team have received numerous awards for their work in saving lives through innovation. These awards include the 2014 UNICEF Innovation Challenge Award and the Harvard Presidential Scholars Public Service Award.

–  Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Mali
Mali is a large, central country in the Sahel region of Western Africa. As of 2017, 42.7% of the population lived below the poverty line. In the first half of 2020 alone, humanitarian assistance became a necessity for more than 4.3 million people in Mali. Persistence of violence, food insecurity, drought and high poverty levels have not only deteriorated the quality of life for many Malians throughout the last decade, but have also actively aggravated the level of homelessness in Mali. According to the United Nations Development Program, approximately 80% of the population of Mali does not have access to adequate housing.

Violence and Instability

Violence and instability play a large role in worsening homelessness in Mali. The nation experienced a rise in homelessness in correlation with the violence of the 2012 crisis. At this time, multiple Islamic groups rose up in rebellion against the government. Despite the negotiation of a peace agreement in 2015, rampant violence and conflict continue today between unidentified armed groups throughout the country. The initial outbreak of violence left as many as 230,000 people displaced from their homes; eight years later, this violence continues to internally displace massive amounts of people. As of March 2020, 124,000 Malians were homeless. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the total number of displaced persons in Mali due to violence and conflict is 208,000 as of December 2019.

Child Homelessness

The census on homeless children reported that Mali’s capital, Bamako, has nearly 4,400 homeless children. However, unofficial estimates put that number closer to 6,000. On top of that, around 200,000 children nationally exist in “difficult living circumstances.” Many of these homeless children are considered “street children,” commonly sent out to beg and retrieve money for gangs to which they belong or for adults exploiting them. These children tend to either come from large families or be orphans, and both live in public urban spaces.

Natural Disasters

Homelessness in Mali is also aggravated by natural disasters, particularly flooding. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre found that 6,300 total people became displaced due to natural disasters in 2019, the large majority of which was flooding. Floods displaced as many as 19,000 Malians in 2018, and more recently, 4,600 in August of 2019 alone. The floods of August 2019 destroyed as many as 845 homes.

Looking Forward

While homelessness in Mali remains a complex issue, some organizations are coming together to start combating homelessness however possible. Domestically-based NGO Association Malidéni was founded in 2009 with the intention of helping street children out of homelessness. The organization now also provides aid to homeless adults, individuals suffering from substance abuse, prisoners and victims of sexual exploitation with community-building soccer programs. With efforts such as these, the elimination of homelessness in Mali seems achievable.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in MaliOne of the largest countries in Africa, the Republic of Mali sits landlocked in the northwestern chunk of the continent. While it is known more recently as one of the most impoverished and unstable countries, thousands of years ago Mali was a cultural epicenter. The Niger and Senegal rivers that cross through the country made Mali one of the richest countries due to a flourishing trans-Saharan trade economy. With goods came literature, art, music and discovery, transforming the Malian city of Timbuktu into a vital center for scholarship. Though Timbuktu’s cultural reputation and Mali’s musical achievements have continued, the country as a whole faces many challenges. About half of Mali’s total population lives in poverty, facing exceedingly unhealthy circumstances as a result, partially due to poor sanitation. Mali’s journey toward achieving proper hygiene and sanitation is detailed in the following facts.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mali

  1. In 2017, the WHO and UNICEF discovered 52% of Malian households nationally have access to basic hygienic facilities, just below the global average of 60%. In rural areas though, access to facilities drops down to just 39%. These averages are higher than other African countries, like Ethiopia and Burundi, that have less than 10% access to facilities in rural areas.
  2. UNICEF also found about 7% of Malians still practice open defecation, causing preventable illnesses connected to improper sanitation. Diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria unequally affect children, producing some of the highest child and infant mortality rates in the world. However, in 2018, UNICEF, USAID and its partner organization JIGI implemented Community-Led Total Sanitation models (CLTS) as a way to decrease open defecation in rural communities. CLTS helped more than 3,500 villages eradicate open defecation, improving the lives of almost three million people due to increased awareness of personal hygiene and sanitation.
  3. Thanks to humanitarian aid from various organizations, 80% of Mali’s national population has access to safe drinking water and in rural areas, 70% have access. In 2019, UNICEF and its partners provided water supply services to more than 194,500 people, including water points and latrines in 95 schools and 61 health centers.
  4. In 2018, a Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study discovered diarrheal diseases stood as the third-highest cause of death in Mali, beaten by neonatal diseases and malaria. However, it is worth noting that due to sanitation improvement measures, the rate of death from diarrheal diseases declined by almost 9% between 2008 and 2017.
  5. Currently, 52%of the population does not have access to a handwashing facility, weakening how Malians can effectively combat diseases. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has begun distributing handwashing devices with the goal of sending up to 4,000. In a joint report with UNICEF and the WHO published in April concerning COVID-19, they specified that “frequent and correct hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus”. They also recommend proper water sanitation and waste management to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  6. About 50% of schools have improved water access, though only 20% have working, gender-separated latrines. Due to the coronavirus, more than 1,000 schools have closed for the time being, cutting off access to what could be a child’s only functioning toilet.
  7. Since 2012, armed conflicts have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people in addition to violence and abuse of children. This instability has created a decrease in the successful delivery of humanitarian aid, which the country largely relies on for assistance with sanitation needs. The coronavirus pandemic has also slowed the services usually given to Mali.
  8. In April, the World Bank approved a $25.8 million grant to support Mali’s response to the coronavirus. The money contributes to health care services, screening and treatment of patients. The initial funding will focus on Mali’s response to the virus and the country’s ability to handle the health and economic impacts to come with an already fragile health system. The grant will also allow Mali to continue essential services like clean water and education.
  9. The humanitarian organization World Vision joined the Mali Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (MIWASH) to construct 208 new water points in 2019, allowing more than 100,000 people access to sanitation facilities while increasing hygiene education. World Vision has also implemented numerous latrine stalls, handwashing kits and hygienic education services through its additional projects, reaching 15,400 children in 51 schools.
  10. In 2016, UNESCO, U.N.-Women, UNFPA and KOICA implemented the “Empowering Girls and Young Women through Education in Mali” project to help girls and young women seek better living conditions through equitable education. The project involves educating girls about feminine hygiene and their reproductive rights to decrease the rates at which young girls drop out of school, have children and marry while still children themselves. One aspect of the project involves access to clean water and sanitation facilities. One of the many achievements the project has made since its creation includes the construction and mending of 137 latrines suitable for girls in Bamako.

Poor sanitation is not the only problem plaguing Mali but it does create a tidal wave of other preventable issues that Malians have to struggle with. Disease, higher mortality rates and malnutrition result from improper sanitation of water and toilet facilities. However, continued investments by the Malian government along with support from international players will help with country to improve sanitation in Mali for its citizens going forward. 

Maria Marabito
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Development in Mali
Mali is a subsistence farming-based economy in West Africa. Approximately 80 percent of the population works in the agriculture industry, yet low productivity, natural disasters and poor crop yields prevent many Malians from rising out of poverty. The 40 percent poverty rate includes farmers that rely on outdated farming techniques for their livelihoods while also depending on favorable crop prices that fluctuate based on Mali’s fragile economy. Since agriculture is the main industry, USAID and the World Bank are working towards agricultural development in Mali.

Importance of Crops

The main crops in Mali are cotton, corn, cereal, peanuts and tobacco. It exports cotton to neighboring countries like Senegal on the Ivory Coast, and various types of cereal remain important due to their ability to withstand droughts. Since the Sahara Desert covers the northern portion of Mali, it is difficult to find suitable land for farming and livestock. Most farmers rely on the Niger River and its surrounding area for fertile land, as about 65 percent of the country is desert or semi-desert.

Mali cultivates less than 5 percent of its land, yet almost half of its GDP is from agriculture. Most of the cultivated land involves various types of cereals, such as sorghum and millet. One issue that affects the agriculture sector in Mali is desertification, which overgrazing livestock, droughts and deforestation can cause. Farmers rely on rainfall, yet rainfall in Mali is rare and droughts are common. Since the agriculture sector in Mali remains the most important industry for the majority of Malians with more than 40 percent of its GDP comprising of the agriculture sector, further agricultural development in Mali could benefit its people and economy by increasing income and reducing poverty.

USAID Projects

As part of its strategy to end world hunger, the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative in Mali focuses on cereal for food security and poverty reduction, as well as rice production to improve income and livestock for food security and another source of income. To date, the Feed the Future initiative has benefitted approximately 500,000 Malians. In 2019, USAID used two methods as part of its Fertilizer Deep-Placement Micro-Dosing. This project aims to improve crop production through fertilizer deep placement and micro-dosing technology. More than 453 jobs emerged in rural areas due to the success of the two productivity methods.

Another project in the Mopti region helped increase farming productivity by 60 percent. The goal of the Large Scale Diffusion of Technologies for Sorghum and Millet Systems project was to increase sorghum and millet income. Seed treatment, hybrids of sorghum and millet and soil fertility improvement were among the reasons for the high productivity. Sorghum and millet were the focus crops due to their climate resilience and drought tolerance.

Nah Drame benefitted from the project in the Mopti region after receiving training on fertilizer, irrigation, sowing, land preparation and harvesting. She replicated what she learned on her own five-acre farm. Production and income increased so much that she expanded her farm to 12 acres and hired three employees to help with her expansion. Drame used some of the money she earned to buy clothes and school kits for her grandchildren. She also used the money to help her daughter start a business of her own, and it was all thanks to USAID’s involvement in the agriculture sector in Mali.

The World Bank’s Involvement

The World Bank’s $150 million Fostering Agricultural Productivity Project for Mali began in 2010 with the goal of improving productivity and crop yields. The project proved successful as crop yields increased from 27 million pounds in 2016 to 34 million pounds in 2018. The project also benefitted 668 farms and 4,300 producers in Sabalibougou, and it developed more than 6,600 acres of land for agriculture in M’Bewani and Sabalibougou.

USAID, the World Bank and various other organizations are continually working towards agricultural development in Mali. Economic development is slow, yet improving income for millions of farmers in Mali could help reduce poverty and develop the economy. If more Malians like Nah Drame obtained training on improved farming techniques, an even greater impact could take place, as increased income would help millions afford better education, health care, necessities and many other things that those in developed countries often take for granted.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikipedia

Smallholder Farmers
MyAgro is an organization working from the ground up to address poverty and it is doing so through an innovative technique. With the latest research proving that user-friendly mobile systems accessible in low internet areas are some of the best ways to reach people in poverty, myAgro built a cellphone-based savings program called Mobile Layaway. It helps smallholder farmers in Mali and around the world pay for supplies. Smallholder farmers no longer have to struggle to save lump sums in order to purchase seeds and fertilizer for their farms.

Who Are Smallholder Farmers?

Smallholder farmers are people who work on up to 10 hectares of farmland. Smallholders have family-focused motives behind their work and generally rely on family labor for production. Not only is farming their job, but they often depend on it to feed their family. They also provide up to 80 percent of the food supply on an equal percentage of the farmland in sub-Saharan Africa.

How Does MyAgro’s Mobile Layaway Work?

Smallholders often have difficulty saving enough money to purchase bulk farm goods. The majority of rural farmers live too far from banks and do not have the money to access them and make deposits. Furthermore, bank fees would deplete their savings quickly.

However, many of these farmers already go to the store to purchase cards for minutes on their phones, so they are familiar with Mobile Layaway’s system. With Mobile Layaway, farmers go to their local village store where they purchase a prepaid scratch card, which can range from 50 cents to $50. After texting the scratch-off code, the value of the purchased card goes into a “savings account,” which can accumulate to pay for fertilizer, seeds and training packages. Mobile Layaway is similar to having a savings account at a bank, however, it is on the smallholder’s phone, which makes it easy to save money while buying supplies for their homesteads.

MyAgro takes this program one step further as well; its field agents train the smallholder farmers in modern farming techniques and methods that work specifically in the West African landscape.

The Situation in Mali

Mali ranks number 21 on the list of the poorest countries by population. In 2009, the poverty rate in Mali stood at 49.7 percent, meaning that almost half of the population lived on less than $1.90 per day. Though 2019 numbers are not officially out, the World Bank estimates that the poverty rate has reduced from the 2017 rate of 43.4 to 41.3 percent. The World Bank attributes this recent decrease to “exceptional agricultural production.

Mali’s economy greatly relies on its agricultural sector. It makes up 80 percent of the populations’ daily activities and income. The country ranks number 44 for countries with the most arable hectares for agricultural production, at a whopping 4.8 million hectares. What is more shocking is that Mali is using only 7 percent of this land.

Because of Mali’s substantial possibility of growth, many organizations have stepped in to build a more sustainable agriculture system. Building a sustainable agriculture system required aiding the farmers in developing a farming capacity, reducing food insecurity and increasing livelihoods. A byproduct of work in Mali has been an increase in people’s awareness of the necessity for better techniques. In recent years, organizations have had to alter their strategies to adapt to climate change effects such as floods and droughts.

MyAgro’s Benefits

Mali’s government went through a military coup when myAgro was just a pilot savings-based payment model in its first year. International NGOs and foreign governments all left as the government shut down, and the country was in political chaos. MyAgro stayed, and during that time, it learned that smallholder farmers in Mali still saved money through their mobile phones. MyAgro allowed for this possibility as most banks closed during that period. With loan-based payment models, many farmers would have defaulted on their payments during a time of conflict like in Mali.

MyAgro’s Impact

Originally, the organization’s reach was slow-moving. In fact, its users changed from a few thousand in 2011 to 30,000 in 2017. Since then, it took only two years for the number of users to double; the company hit 60,000 farmers in 2019. MyAgro estimates that it will be able to increase these numbers even further and reach 120,000 farmers in 2020.

Reaching farmers is one thing, but the personal impact on each individual is also phenomenal. If a smallholder farmer implements the techniques that MyAgro offers, they can expect to see a 50 percent increase in their harvest yield per hectare, at minimum. Some farmers have even seen a 100 percent increase per hectare. This equates to about $150 to $300 in additional income for the smallholder farmers each year. MyAgro is not stopping there and is “working to increase the direct economic impact of the program to over $550 per farmer in the next few years to move each farmer above the poverty line.”

MyAgro’s Longterm Goals

Because myAgro’s mission is to move smallholder farmers in Mali and the world out of poverty, it is no surprise that its ultimate goal is to reach 1 million farmers and their 10 million family members. By 2025, myAgro aims to work with these smallholder farmers to increase their income by $550 a year. This additional income would push the farmers and their families out of poverty.

MyAgro started an enormously challenging pilot model that led to a successful organization. It not only aids smallholder farmers in their rise out of poverty but changes people’s perceptions of farmers’ abilities to handle their money. Through all of this, myAgro has built a resilience with Malian citizens that the country has never seen before.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Unsplash

 

Agriculture in Mali
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and has a per capita income of $300. Estimates determine that the overall poverty rate is 64 percent. Many factors contribute to the country’s poverty level. Mali suffers from low and erratic rainfall, poor soil and low agricultural production output. The country also suffers from poor infrastructure, especially in the areas of transportation and communications, as well as underdeveloped human capital. This is devastating because almost 80 percent of the country’s population depends upon agriculture in Mali for their livelihood.

Four Pillars for Mali’s Rural Development

The International Monetary Fund of the African Department published a poverty reduction strategy paper in 2002. The paper proposed policy priority action programs for Mali’s rural development. The paper presented four pillars:

  • Create a macroeconomic environment for accelerated and redistributive growth within the context of macroeconomic stability and openness, that the private sector drives.
  • Promote institutional development, governance and participation.
  • Develop human resources and access to quality basic services.
  • Build basic infrastructure and develop productive economic solutions.

The Project Appraisal Document entitled, Project Appraisal Document on a Proposed Credit in the amount of SDR 30.7 Million to the Republic of Male for an Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project, emerged in 2005. It said that Mali’s poverty problem is a rural issue and that fighting it requires improving the life and income of Mali’s rural population. The Product Appraisal Document stated, “The project aims at fostering improvements in the performances of supply chains for a range of agricultural, livestock, fishery and gathering products, for which, Mali has a strong competitive advantage.” Thus, after the publishing of the poverty reduction strategy paper, Mali instituted the Program for Competitiveness and Agricultural Diversification (PCDA).

Program for Competitiveness and Diversification of Agriculture

The goal of the PCDA was to increase the competitiveness of Mali’s traditional produce of cotton, rice and less traditional crops, such as fruit, horticulture products, oilseeds, Arabic gum and cashews. The PCDA has a strong private sector focus. The project’s goal was to pump more money into marketing and communication.

The World Bank has been supportive of the implementation of Mali’s governmental strategy to reduce the issues leading to Mali’s poverty. The agriculture project, with the World Bank’s backing, has granted financial and technical support for 125 of Mali’s agricultural business investors.

Socodevi

Socodevi carried out the work of the Program for Competitiveness and Diversification of Agriculture. Socodevi is a mutual and cooperatives network that shares its knowledge and expertise with developing countries. Its work focused on techniques and technology to improve the competitiveness and production of agriculture in Mali. The regions of focus for the project were Bamoko-Koulikor, Mopti, Segou and Skasso.

The result of this project has been beneficial for more than 8,000 individuals. The 1,482.6 acres developed have yielded a 30 percent increase due to the improved irrigation methods. The PCDA project created 2,280 jobs with 1,175 being permanent.

Who This Project Has Helped

The project helped people such as Madame Coulibaly, an agricultural engineer, who turned her small store into a booming green business through government permits and bank loans. Coulibaly says she now has eight women employees that do the washing, whereas she only had two before. She also has a guard and three publicists, amounting to a total of 14 employees, including Coulibaly. She says that increases in her sales have led to increases in her staff.

Other examples of people who have benefited from government aid are Mamadou Diallo, who grows fruit on his own plot of land. Diallo said he would work in agriculture without government help, but would not be producing as much. Mamadou received seedlings for a new type of papaya that comes from Burkina Faso. This type of papaya produces more fruit in less time.

Along with seedling and financial aid, people such as Mamadou and Coulibaly also receive technical advice on irrigation and how to care for their crops for improved productivity. They may also receive advice on other crops they can grow.

Agriculture in Mali is likely to increase with the continued support of the World Bank. It could, perhaps, also benefit from private investors from the United States who may benefit from Mali’s agricultural produce. Financial support from the United States toward the reduction of poverty and promotion of industry may also foster the growth of an important friendship which may be beneficial in an unstable part of the globe.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr
Public Health in Mali
Mali is a nation that has had both ups and downs in recent decades where public health is concerned. Food and waterborne diseases are particularly problematic within the country. The degree of risk for attracting some sort of major illness or infection within Mali is very high. Among the top 10 causes of death in Mali are neonatal disorders, malaria, malnutrition and lower respiratory infections. Many of the issues surrounding public health in Mali largely correlate with access to food and clean drinking water.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC has been working in a close partnership with the country since 1996 in an effort to provide aid for public health in Mali. A CDC epidemiologist first began working with Mali on stopping diseases like smallpox and measles. However, its mission within the nation’s borders has expanded. One goal of the CDC’s current partnership with the nation is to improve public health in Mali. The CDC is expanding access to solutions for vaccine-preventable illnesses and other leading causes of death. Another goal is strengthening the country’s laboratory and workforce capacity to help it be more prepared for disease outbreaks.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Despite some serious achievements within the health sector of the country, public health in Mali still remains one of the largest concerns within its borders. The newest strategy under the U.S. Agency for International Development focuses heavily on development within the region in several different ways. It prioritizes the comprehensive packaging of high-impact health services at the community level and pushes for making said necessary health initiatives accessible to those who need it the most. Additionally, the organization supports the goals of the U.S. Government Global Health Initiative. The organization is continuously looking for ways to improve public health by making effective, quality health services to Mali’s citizens.

Prioritizing Mothers and Children

Even more specifically, Mali and initiatives must give special attention to mothers and children within the country as part of any approach to improving public health in Mali. Some organizations prioritize this above all else, like Mali Health. Its approach focuses on promoting financial health and stability. Mali Health removes financial barriers that stand in the way for many citizens of Mali. The thinking behind this approach is that with fewer financial barriers posing as obstacles for mothers, they will be able to seek out medical care for themselves and their children easier than it may have been previously to do so. Approaching public health in Mali primarily by tackling issues that heavily affect mothers and children first is an intuitive idea. Doing so means that healthier mothers are able to raise healthier children. The children will live and thrive past the years where certain illnesses can be particularly deadly. In addition, when more children survive and thrive, it leads to successes in Mali’s workforce, population growth and economic growth.

Clean Water in Mali

Another integral approach to solving the issues which plague public health in Mali is one that focuses primarily on clean water. Diarrheal diseases are especially lethal and often emerge out of a lack of access to clean and safe drinking water. One nonprofit organization, Medicine for Mali, has drilled 28 clean water wells within the country in hopes of providing cleaner water to its citizens. Solar even powers some of these wells and the organization has provided training within the villages it services so that users know how to maintain and repair the wells. It is through organizations like these that profound impacts are visible on public health in Mali. The implementation of health services and wells can change the lives of thousands of people all at once. This sparks a movement to help a nation on its path to growth.

Like many other countries, Mali still needs improvement in order to become substantially healthier. Public health in Mali still faces many issues. The real challenge lies in ensuring that clean drinking water, necessary medications and vaccinations and preventive health services are accessible throughout the country. The country should undoubtedly achieve this through the combined efforts of nonprofit organizations, its government, its citizens and foreign aid agencies in the U.S.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Progress in Mali
With a poverty rate of 42.7 percent, Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its arid climate also makes Mali one of the hottest countries and armed conflict, famine, weak infrastructure and food insecurity are widespread. Mercy Corps, a non-governmental organization (NGO), has provided humanitarian aid in Mali since 2012. Their efforts have reduced food insecurity, built resilience to armed conflict and natural disasters and assisted in infrastructure development.

Goals of Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps believes conflict prevention and long-term food security programs are important to the livelihoods of Malians. Supporting agriculture, pastoralism and other professions leads to reduced conflict over sparse water and land. Since 2012, more than 250,000 women, children and men have benefited from approximately 20 programs created by Mercy Corps.

According to the U.N., more than 3.2 million Malians need humanitarian assistance, 70 percent of whom live in the Mopti and Segou regions. About 2.7 million are food insecure and malnutrition affects more than 600,000 children. Mercy Corps’ goals are wide-reaching, yet its focus is on long-term stability. The conflict over land and water and overpopulation are two major issues that Mercy Corps and other NGOs are combating by providing humanitarian aid in Mali.

Progress in Mali

Since 2012, Mercy Corps has assisted 98,000 Malians affected by food insecurity. Agricultural support, entrepreneurship and apprentice programs and business development support are three major focus areas. In 2018 alone, the NGO helped 41,000 people through agricultural programs. More than 80 percent of Malians are farmers and fishers, which is one reason Mercy Corps prioritizes agricultural productivity. Seed distribution, technical training and infrastructure rehabilitation were all emphasized during 2018. Improving agricultural productivity and resilience to droughts is essential to helping those affected by food shortages.

Mercy Corps also made progress in Mali by assisting more than 1,112 pastoralists in 2018 with the provision of livestock feed, distribution of goats and animal care from local veterinarians. Livestock and agriculture comprise 80 percent of Mali’s exports, and the assistance from Mercy Corps and other NGOs helps to not only increase food security but also increase income. Mercy Corps provided financial assistance to 25,600 people for basic needs and in support of economic recovery.

Individual Success Stories

Mercy Corps is a major supporter of youth entrepreneurship in Mali, as 60 percent of Malians are less than 25 years old. The NGO assists young entrepreneurs by providing financial assistance and teaching better business practices.

Bibata is a 25-year-old Malian who sells paddy rice and grilled potatoes from her home. Most of her income comes from her business. With her grant money, she was able to buy more paddy rice, spices and vegetables, doubling her profit within months. She stated that the grant money helped her expand and she hopes to grow further into raising cattle.

Hassan is another Malian that benefitted from Mercy Corps’ support. He barely made enough money to care for his nine children, but after a Mercy Corps’ professional training course he understood how to get reimbursed by clients and access services from microfinance institutions. He received a grant, opened up his own shop and now earns twice the income he had earned before.

The Future of Mali

In response to violence in Mali, the United Nations launched a Humanitarian Response Plan in 2019 to assist with food, shelter, nutrition, protection, education and hygiene. Alongside continued efforts by the United Nations, United States government and NGOs, Mercy Corps is set to advance its mission of providing humanitarian aid in Mali. Conflict and high population growth are ongoing in 2019, yet progress is currently being made.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: USAID

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mali
In 2020, the country of Mali will celebrate its 60th anniversary of independence from French colonial rule. However, since 1960, Mali has had a tumultuous history filled with numerous civil wars, coups and failed revolutions. Despite these setbacks, Mali is making strides to improve the quality of life for its citizens. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mali

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, the life expectancy of a citizen of Mali is 60.8 years on average or 58.6 years for males and 63 years for females. This puts Mali at a rank of 206 out of 223 countries for life expectancy. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali will explain why.
  2. Mali reported 43 births per 1,000 people in 2018, the third-largest figure in the world. Many expect the country’s population to double by 2035. This has led to overcrowding in the capital city of Bamako. In response, the World Bank has begun to invest in the infrastructure of Malian cities via performance-based grants for communities.
  3. Despite this massive population growth, Mali suffers from extreme infant and child mortality, which adversely affects life expectancy in Mali. In 2015, 114 out of 1,000 Malian children died by the age of 5. Recently, organizations like WHO and UNICEF have begun to sponsor community case management initiatives that focus on improving health conditions in impoverished areas. Areas where these initiatives occurred, such as Bamako’s Yirimadio district, have been able to reduce child mortality rates to up to 28 deaths per 1,000, about a quarter of the national rate.
  4. In Mali, the maternal mortality rate is very high. The U.N. estimates that there are 630 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is partly because only one in four births in Mali have someone with proper birthing training, but deep-rooted societal attitudes that restrict women’s rights may also be a cause. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization fighting against maternal mortality in Mali, child marriage and female genital mutilation are both common in Mali, which both cause higher risks to the mother during birth. The organization has called upon the Malian government to “meet its national and international commitments and take the necessary steps to reduce maternal mortality.”
  5. The leading cause of death in Mali is malaria, which accounts for 24 percent of deaths in the country. To address this, the Malian government has partnered with global organizations such as the CDC to distribute anti-malarial medications during the country’s late autumn rainy season, in which most cases of malaria appear. This partnership was established in 1995 as part of the CDC’s global initiative to stop diseases in other countries before they can reach the U.S.
  6. Illnesses that often stem from a lack of access to clean water, such as meningitis and diarrheal diseases, cause a significant number of deaths in Mali. Twenty-three percent of the population of Mali overall and 35.9 percent of the rural population lacks access to clean drinking water, and 78.5 percent of rural Malians lack access to proper sanitation. This leads to the spread of the diseases mentioned above. An organization called Charity Water has invested over $9 million to give rural Malians access to clean water and sanitation by building wells and pipe systems, allowing Malians to tap into the country’s rich aquifers for clean drinking water.
  7. Malnutrition causes 5 percent of deaths in Mali. According to the World Food Program, 44.9 percent of the country live in poverty, which is a significant cause of food insecurity. To combat this, programs like the World Food Program have been working on distributing nutritious meals to Malian families, as well as setting up long-term programs to create infrastructures such as roads and dams.
  8. HIV and AIDS cause 3 percent of deaths in Mali. Although HIV infections in the country have risen by 11 percent since 2010, deaths from the disease have gone down by 11 percent in the same period. Efforts by the CDC and other organizations have focused on treating HIV to prevent victims of the disease from going on to develop AIDS, as well as improving blood safety measures.
  9. Mali suffers from a significant shortage of physicians, with 0.14 physicians and 0.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared to 2.59 physicians and 2.9 beds in the U.S. Despite that, the country has recently taken significant steps forward on providing universal health coverage via a $120 million initiative from the government, which will focus on training more doctors, broadening access to contraceptives and improving care for the elderly.
  10. Eighty percent of Mali relies on agriculture for a living. Although Malian farmers have been fighting soil degradation and lack of access to modern equipment, initiatives like Feed the Future have been working to improve conditions for Malian farmers. As a result, Mali poured $47.34 million into its agriculture industry in 2017.

As these 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali show, life expectancy in Mali is significantly lower than in other parts of the world, but the country is making strides forward to combat illness and poverty. With help from the global community, Mali is moving forwards towards a brighter future.

– Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in Mali

A land-locked country in West Africa, Mali has an economy that is primarily based on agriculture. The main crops produced are millet, rice and corn. However, this country-wide reliance on agriculture depends on the weather, which often includes unpredictable rainfall patterns. Inconsistent agricultural production, high population growth and increasing desertification are some of the causal factors that have resulted in the country’s ranking 182nd out of 189 countries in the world on the Human Development Index. Malnutrition also happens to be one of the leading causes of death in Mali. Because of this, many NGOs and governments around the world have funded programs in Mali to help improve living conditions and decrease malnutrition.

Political Instability

Aside from agricultural issues, political instability has also led to severe malnutrition in Mali. Recently, USAID predicted that an additional 868,000 people will require urgent food assistance in 2019. Of these 868,000, 160,000 will be children. Children who are malnourished are at high risk of growth deficiencies; as such, many children in Mali are severely underdeveloped with regards to their height and weight.

Current and Past Progress

However, some progress has been made. From 2006 to 2013, thinness among women of reproductive age and adolescent women decreased by 2 and 4 percent, respectively. Additionally, the prevalence of underweight children (under the age of 5), decreased from 14 percent to 13 percent. Although this may not seem like a significant statistical improvement, 1 percent of the population of children under 5 years old (3.33 million) represents 33,300 children, indicating that progress has been made towards reducing malnutrition in Mali.

In 2010, then-U.S. President Barack Obama started the Feed the Future initiative, a U.S. funded foreign assistance program that targets specific countries to alleviate global poverty and improve food security. As one of 12 countries selected to receive aid, Mali continues to benefit from the implementation of environmental and nutritional plans. The country has begun to invest in fertilizers in farms across the nation to improve the quality of crop production, and an additional 4.3 million trees have been planted around the country to help make farms more resilient. Additionally, the initiative has encouraged farmers to plant oilseeds, which they can sell for people to use as biofuel and soap. As a result of all of this, the Feed the Future initiative has provided nutritional and humanitarian assistance to millions of individuals in Mali.

Other USAID programs have proven to be of great help in Mali as well, such as the Food for Peace program which has provided $28.5 million of emergency food assistance in the Mopti, Koulikoro and Segou Regions. The program aims to increase the diversity of foods consumed in these regions to decrease malnutrition and make the population healthier.

Today, the Office of Food for Peace (FFP), an organization within USAID, partners with the U.N. World Food Programme, U.N. Children’s Fund and CARE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending world poverty, to provide food assistance in the poorest regions of Mali. As of July 2019, FFP assists 300,000 people with food distributions, supplemental nutrition assistance and asset-building activities. 33,000 severely malnourished children have received ready-to-use food and 124,000 people in the Mopti Region have been provided with programs to improve food security, promote hygiene and provide conflict support.

– Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr