The landlocked West African country of Mali faces a myriad of challenges. In 2021, Mali ranked 186 out of 191 in the UNDP Human Development Index, and, according to the World Food Programme, nearly eight in 10 people in Mali are affected by poverty, and nearly a third of Malian children under the age of 5 suffer from stunting. Faced with these difficult circumstances, USAID programs in Mali work to improve the situation in the country in a number of areas including health, humanitarian and food assistance, education and human rights protection.
Agriculture and Food Security
The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that nearly a fifth of the Malian population is affected by food insecurity. This highlights the importance of USAID programs in Mali that combat hunger and help the agriculture sector, which is responsible for 80% of employment in the country. USAID’s “Feed the Future” program, which runs in a number of other countries as well, implements help in a number of ways.
The program works with members of the private sector to incentivize private companies to commit to sustainable agricultural production and the sale of agricultural products in Mali. To aid the highly agriculture-dependent population, the program also provides education to Malian farmers on better farming practices and soil and water conservation techniques. In addition, Feed the Future helps them gain access to better soil, fertilizer and financing, so that farmers are able to increase food production and reduce food insecurity. In the year 2021 alone, Feed the Future was able to assist the nutrition of nearly 2 million children under the age of 5, making it one of the most impactful of all USAID programs in Mali. Feed the Future even branches out into the more political sphere, with USAID representatives working with local government and NGOs to encourage the harmonic use of resources so that food insecurity may be reduced.
Mali is faced with a number of health crises which USAID programs in Mali aim to combat. While the scope of USAID health aid is large, ranging from the provision of training to health workers and medical equipment to health facilities and much more, there are some initiatives that are more targeted at specific health issues. The Presidential Malaria Initiative, for example, is committed to fighting the disease malaria in the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria ranks as one of the leading causes of death in Mali, making work to combat the disease of high importance. By way of the Presidential Malaria Initiative, USAID provides a wide range of aid to both prevent malaria from spreading and treat infected Malians. Malaria prevention measures include the provision of preventive treatments for pregnant women, the distribution of mosquito nets, rapid diagnostic tests and insecticide spray. In addition, USAID treats malaria-infected Malians with fast-acting medicines, to prevent further spread and enable those with the disease to recover from it.
Around 12.5% of Malian children of primary school age do not attend school, according to the WFP. In addition, USAID reports that boys are more likely to be enrolled in school than girls, who are regularly deprived of an education in favor of working in the home. USAID programs in Mali seek to increase school participation and graduation and to increase the number of girls given the opportunity to receive an education.
The USAID program Girls’ Leadership and Empowerment through Education (GLEE) works to decrease the barriers girls face to receiving an education and to empower them to become more independent and less vulnerable to exploitation. Amongst other initiatives, the program supports the establishment of “Accelerated Schooling Centers,” which are learning centers that provide an education to girls who missed out on school years. As of June 2023, USAID reported that 21,745 girls had been enrolled in such institutions, giving them a chance to catch up with their education.
With armed internal conflicts and crises regularly occurring, the human rights situation in Mali is difficult. USAID programs in Mali aim to strengthen democracy, human rights and the justice system in the country.
The Empowering Malians through Elections, Reforms and Governance Efforts (EMERGE) program, for example, aims to inform democratic debate and strengthen fair democratic elections. The program, which was founded by USAID in partnership with the Swiss and Danish stakeholders, has delivered training to nearly 5,500 local election observers and provided accurate information on elections to over 25 million Malians over the radio, in-person and on social media platforms.
Mali faces a number of challenges, ranging from food insecurity to disease and education issues. However, some progress has been made, as international aid, including USAID programs in Mali, works to improve the lives of Malians. For example, life expectancy at birth increased by over 10 years in Mali since 2000, per the WHO. Continued and increased aid is needed to continue this trend and ensure that Malians have a better future.
– Patrick Brownlow