Malian Military Junta
Mali recently decided to ban all non-governmental organizations operating with funds or support from France. The decision came in response to France’s announcement to “suspend[]its official development assistance to Mali.” France cited the Malian junta’s alleged use of “the Russian paramilitary group Wagner” to combat jihadism as the reason for this disassociation. Wagner has a reputation for brutality, standing accused of such crimes as rape, abuse of human rights and massacres. The Malian military junta has denied accusations of using Wagner, with Colonel Maiga condemning the allegations as “fanciful allegations” and “subterfuge,” Africa News reported.

Despite the denial of these allegations, tensions have ratcheted and the Malian military junta has chosen to ban all NGOs related to France including organizations focused on providing humanitarian aid. France, similarly, has not accepted Mali’s denial and views the alleged participation of the Russian Wagner group as a “collaboration between the two countries.”

Effects of Aid Loss in Mali

The removal of aid could prove devastating for Mali, which has faced a variety of crises including extreme poverty, the spread of jihadism and massive civilian displacement. For instance, Action Against Hunger reported that, in Mali, almost 70% of the population lives in poverty. Worsening conditions related to conflict and recent droughts have led to many children suffering from severe malnutrition.

Many French NGOs are working in Mali on issues related to food security, health and access to education and French military aid withdrew in August 2022. Germany also made the decision to pull out of Mali and while the Malian military junta has appeared unconcerned, Souleymane Camara, president of the Malian human rights organization LNDH, has claimed, “The withdrawal of the forces of countries that came to help contain the advance of the Jihadists is very worrying because Mali does not have the means to deal with the situation.”

The Malian military junta’s vice president, Fousseynou Ouattara remarked that Mali is against “permanently expanding a foreign military presence on our territory.” However, Mali’s relationship with Germany has been much less tumultuous, with Germany electing to leave some troops in place in anticipation of the February elections and Mali and parliamentary secretary of Mali’s transitional government, Amadou Maiga, has expressed gratitude to Germany and voiced an interest in resuming their alliance in the future, stating, “I think that the cooperation will continue on other levels, like development and security. We thank them and we will face our destiny,” DW reported.

History of Tensions

Tensions with France are not a new conflict in Mali, which has a history that French interventionism has broadly defined. France colonized Mali in 1890, making it French Sudan. The conflict between France and Mali has continued to define the region, as France colonized various regions of West Africa, often with a complete lack of concern for the “local ethnic, religious and cultural dynamics” and “the political and cultural ecologies of the regions…” While this has led to internal conflict, France has also been guilty of more modern atrocities, such as supporting the Algerian government’s “repression of the democratic transition that began in 1988.”

This decision ultimately resulted in the formation of the Islamic Salvation Front which then took power as an oppressive and authoritarian regime with western backing. France also voiced support for Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2012, which lead to fallout and increased violence that endangered West Africa, according to Al Jazeera.

Potential Solutions

This history has made it difficult for Mali to conceptualize France’s presence as anything other than antagonistic, as it has seen the nation interfere with democracy in the past. One could broadly describe Mali’s military junta’s unease with French aid as a result of France’s own making in relation to this history of recent failures. This situation makes it particularly difficult to remedy, as Mali’s military junta is resistant to western aid. However, many France-dependent NGOs are advocating for their ability to work in Mali. CCFD Terre-Solidaire, Handicap International, Médecins du Monde and Oxfam have penned a letter to French President, Emmanuel Macron, claiming that ending aid in Mali would lead to “the cessation of essential, even vital activities (…) for the benefit of populations in situations of great fragility or poverty,” Africa News reported.

Despite fears of rising jihadism, Mali also remains hopeful, as Amadou Maiga claims military withdrawal from the west will “require a reorganization of our troops and maybe a little more logistics”, adding, “But we’ll deal with it. We’ve been expecting this,” according to DW. Hopefully, Mali can reroute its aid relations to nations with whom they have less tumultuous histories and defend against jihadist attacks in the meantime. Also, stabilization could possibly be restored after the German-supervised February 2024 elections.

– Braden Hampton
Photo: Flickr

Disease in EthiopiaAs of 2018, Ethiopia has a population of over 107 million people. The country also boasts the highest livestock population in Africa, with around 52 million cattle and 36 million sheep. With nearly 80 percent of Ethiopia’s people dependent on livestock for income and sustenance, they are in constant contact with these animals. This puts them at high risk of contracting zoonotic diseases. In order to prioritize and prevent disease in Ethiopia, the United States CDC developed a semi-quantitative tool and held a workshop to identify the biggest concerns for human and animal health.

High-Risk Diseases

Forty-three contractible zoonotic diseases were evaluated at this workshop. Criteria were based on the severity of a disease in humans and the proportion of human disease based on animal exposure. The five diseases that were identified as having the highest need for prevention were rabies, anthrax, brucellosis, leptospirosis and echinococcosis. The goal of this workshop was to focus on better prevention and control strategies and to create programs that will better prepare the population to prevent diseases in Ethiopia.

Along with facing a higher risk of contracting zoonotic diseases than other countries in Africa, Ethiopia also experiences high risks of other deadly illnesses, such as malaria and AIDS. As of 2016, diarrheal diseases and lower respiratory infections cause the most deaths in Ethiopian children. With water sometimes being hard to access, due to a massive drought starting in 2011, the citizens are forced to drink water that can carry many kinds of life-threatening bacteria.

Preventing Disease in Ethiopia

Handicap International is doing its part to lessen the spread of disease in Ethiopia by providing clean water. They currently have placed three underwater storage tanks in Ethiopia that fill up with water during the rainy seasons which provide clean drinking water when rain is less abundant. Each tank can provide water for 1,500 people for almost two months.

Handicap International also provides training to health workers and citizens in Ethiopia. When people are more educated about the causes and effects of diseases, they are more capable of doing things to prevent contraction and spread. Along with training, the organization also distributes hygiene kits to various facilities.

The United States CDC is also working closely with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health to implement a stronger HIV program in the country. With a data-driven approach, they are finding more effective ways of counseling and informing the people of Ethiopia, along with creating more appropriate testing strategies.

With so many possible ways of contracting a disease in Ethiopia, it’s no wonder that many organizations have made prevention and education a priority. Because the citizens of Ethiopia rely so much on livestock, they have a much higher risk of disease than many other countries. By providing them with clean water and the opportunity to learn how to prevent the spread of disease, they are on the fast track to higher mortality rates and less illness.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr

As of 2011, there are an estimated 450,000 disabled persons living in Sierra Leone. This number includes the blind, the Deaf, people living with polio, individuals who are war wounded and amputees.

The Sierra Leone Civil War of the 1990s left 1,600 amputees alone. As of yet, the Sierra Leone government has not offered any assistance to these members of society.

With 8,973 probable, confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola and a recorded 4,484 deaths across Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the outbreak of Ebola has put these individuals at high risk of infection.  Those who are blind and Deaf and often use their sense of touch to navigate and communicate, consequently increasing their chances of infection.

Handicap International’s health coordinator, Adam Huebner said “It was inconceivable that Ebola would use up so much energy and so many available resources. All of our teams in Liberia and Sierra Leone are now focusing their efforts on controlling this virus.”

Sierra Leone and Liberia officials, as well as the CDC are both trying to control the spread of Ebola. However, volunteer health workers who are combating the outbreak through awareness and other preventative measures have been met with violence.

The paranoia of the epidemic has translated into a discrimination not just against Ebola victims but also the disabled. Kamara is a woman living on one of the Polio compounds in Makeni. She has been isolated from the outbreak physically and economically. She used to make necklaces with others on the compound to generate income.

Kamara says, “I sell them [necklaces] at the price of 20,000 but since the Ebola crisis, I don’t have customers. People marginalize us because of our disability.” Because of this most disabled are left clueless to the dangers of Ebola.

Organizations like UNDP and Handicap International have begun to reach out to disabled persons offering information and counseling about the epidemic ravaging their countries. Huebner says, “At our own level, we’re trying to open up discussions with local people so that they can ask about anything that might be worrying them and get information about what can be done to limit the number of new cases. We’re also addressing questions related to the indirect consequences of the virus.”

The UNDP has been delivering information directly to the front doors’ of quarantined individuals. In addition, UNDP officials have been handing out pamphlets in braille and informative picture brochures for those that can’t read.

These face to face encounters with UNDP officials and the members of Handicap International have afforded those in the dark to ask questions. Information is power, especially during a crisis. These groups are bringing a sense of peace to people living with disabilities. They are empowering a group of people, who very much want to be a part of the process, with their own voices.

Frederick Wood II

Sources: UNDP, Handicap-International, WHO, Journalists for Human Rights
Photo: Handicap International

Handicap International is an “independent and impartial organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster.” Founded in 1982 to help 6,000 Cambodian amputees living in refugee camps along the Thai border, it evolved from being mainly focused towards improving the living conditions of the disabled to implementing prevention programs through “weapons and landmine clearance, risk education activities, stockpile management, and advocacy to ban landmines and cluster bombs.” This comprehensive approach comprises a series of preventive and effective actions to ensure that disabled people all over the world enjoy basic human rights and respect.

One billion people across the globe -15 percent of the world’s population- live with a disability. Today, the issue of access for the disabled is sorely under-treated in developing countries, and there are still many places with no facilities for the disabled at all. The story of Hodan, suffering from multiple disabilities including hearing, physical and intellectual impairments, is a heartbreaking illustration of this problem.

Hodan had to stay home all day long and had no friends because her school made no adjustments for disabled children. It was not until she turned 17 that she was finally able to go to school as a first grader because Handicap International set up a series of training programs to compensate for the lack of accessibility. Unfortunately, her story is just one among many. In Ethiopia alone, of the 4.8 million children living with disabilities, only 3 percent go to school according to Handicap International.

In 2011, Handicap International helped 768,050 disabled people through Health and Prevention; 424,600 through the management and distribution of aid; 332,320 through demining campaigns and 118,550 people through rehabilitation. In the past, Handicap International has intervened in crisis situations such as the Balkan wars (1993), the Rwanda Genocide (1994), the Sierra Leone civil war (1996) and the 2001 earthquake in India, to name a few examples. In total, Handicap International has operated in more than 60 countries, providing equipment and training to better the conditions of the forgotten and the ostracized.

Today, Handicap International centers its actions around the Syrian refugee crisis and condemns international inaction in the face of the atrocities committed. Thanks to its prevention and training programs, Handicap International will have helped almost 37,000 Syrians by June 2013 while teaching 9,000 others how to spot and avoid weapons and explosive war remnants.

It also launched an International Campaign to Ban Landmines which has saved thousands of lives and for which it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after the 1997 Mine Ban treaty was passed. It is now actively fighting to make this treaty a reality across the globe.

Lauren Yeh

Sources: Handicap International, ICBL
Photo: Monsoon Adventure