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