poverty in Mali
A land-locked, predominantly rural society with limited women’s rights, a poor health care system and constant conflict due to recent terrorism and political instability, Mali and its population are extremely vulnerable to poverty. In fact, 49% of Malians live below the poverty line.

Poverty in Numbers

The astronomically high rate of poverty in Mali affects various parts of its society, namely food security, education and women’s rights. More than 70% of families in Mali are four individuals or larger given that the average Malian woman gives birth to six children. Big families, combined with the rising number of droughts, food shocks and unsustainable agriculture practices, have adversely impacted food security and the cost of living in Mali. This leads to many children dropping out of school to support their family by working, a problem that the increased poverty due to COVID-19 will likely exacerbate. As a result, the total adult literacy rate is just 33% while only reaching 22% for women, thus hurting the future prospects and opportunities for Mali’s population.

Furthermore, many treat Malian women as property to buy and sell. This oppressive culture along with widespread poverty in Mali has greatly contributed to about 49% of Malian girls having to marry before they turn 18 against their will, as husbands will pay more money for younger brides.

The government of Mali has consistently viewed international cooperation and collaboration as the most effective way for it to reduce domestic poverty. Traditionally, however, Mali’s largest obstacle to overcome has been the constant threat of terrorism in its north, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in addition to reducing the government and NGOs’ ability to provide basic services to those who fled.

Programs to Help Mali

Governments across the world have provided aid for Mali’s people through a variety of programs. Notably, the United State’s Feed the Future initiative not only gives nutritional help to millions of Malian children per year but it advances long-term food solutions to food security in Mali by providing sustainable farming technologies for thousands of Malian farmers.

Canada has pursued a similar mission by funding hydro-agricultural infrastructure to help 7,500 women gain access to high-quality, irrigated land as well as helping about 470,000 women obtain crop insurance or agricultural credit from 2014 to 2017. This further bolstered food security for at-risk families, thereby building resilience to possible environmental events.

Finally, the World Bank has allocated $1.5 billion to 30 programs directly improving Mali’s infrastructure, financial sector and agricultural sector. The results of such ventures have been overwhelmingly positive for eliminating poverty in Mali. Almost 80,000 Malians have received cash transfers four times a year, more than 100,000 women and children received nutritional supplements and new water sanitation facilities underwent establishment in communities experiencing the threat of water scarcity.

The Road Ahead

The efforts of Mali and its partners cannot stop now. COVID-19 will inevitably create even more poverty throughout Mali with numerous economic and health factors on top of a possible increase in terrorist activities. For many reasons, stepping up efforts to help Mali’s government is the only option. Failing to prevent Mali’s condition from further deteriorating could have dire humanitarian repercussions. On the other hand, acting now and collectively is essential to ensuring regional peace and prosperity for the future. Helping Mali is no longer a choice for the world; rather, it is fundamental to eliminating poverty by the United Nations’ 2030 target date.

– Alex Berman
Photo: Flickr

islamic relief
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims around the globe are fasting from dawn until dusk. Those fasting are reminded of the suffering of those less fortunate. Last Ramadan, 650,000 people in 25 different countries received food thanks to the efforts of Islamic Relief. This year the organization has set out again to help those in need worldwide.

In Saint Denis in Paris, the program “Tables du Ramadan” offers between 900 and 1,000 meals per night with the help of 60 volunteers. Solidarity is an important part of Ramadan for many, so the program works to bring people together and provide a space to share the meal together. Whether someone is fasting or not, and whether they are Muslim or not, everyone is welcome to come and enjoy delicious food.

Also in the spirit of Ramadan, which is about sharing without limits, 5,500 packages were sent to remand centers in France so that they know they were not forgotten in the holy month of Ramadan.

In Gaza, despite the dangerous environment, Islamic Relief is doing everything they can to help citizens. The representative of Islamic Relief France in Gaza reported the difficult situation. Electricity is only available eight hours per day, all points of entry are blocked and basic necessities are becoming more and more expensive.

Only four out of 10 citizens have access to daily food. There are emergency kits as well as food kits, which include rice, sugar, oil and lentils. Food packages are in the process of being distributed and emergency kits are ready to be sent out.

French Islamic Relief in Morocco teamed up with two other local organizations to help those living in poverty, orphans, elderly people and widows. So far 1,315 families have been helped equating to almost 7,890 people. Packages including sugar, flour, oil, chickpeas, lentils, vermicelli rice and dates have been distributed to those in need.  A Moroccan widow, Fatna, is in her sixties. She has five kids, but due to her health condition, she cannot work. She says she does not know what she would do without the help she has received during the holiday month, and is extremely grateful.

Many more citizens, both Muslim and not, are able to break their fast with delicious meals thanks to Islamic Reliefs efforts around the world.

– Kim Tierney

Sources: Youphil, Secours Islamique, Islamic Relief, Le Matin, AJIB, Islam & Info
Photo: Islamic Relief

Founded in 1993 in California, Islamic Relief USA is a relief organization that works toward alleviating many of the issues that plague developing countries. Their mission statement explains that they work to “alleviate suffering, hunger, illiteracy and diseases worldwide regardless of color, race, religion or creed, and to provide aid in a compassionate and dignified manner.”

With partner organizations in over 35 countries worldwide, Islamic Relief USA supports projects revolving around health and nutrition, orphans, water and sanitation in close to 30 countries. The organization emphasizes implementing campaigns in response to problems like natural disasters and children in need, hoping to establish a more stable world.

Despite their humanitarian efforts, connections to the Muslim Brotherhood have pointed to possible corruption within the organization. The parent organization, Islamic Relief Worldwide, was founded by Hani Al-Bana, a former trustee of a group called Muslim Aid. There is question about how deep-seated the Muslim Brotherhood influence is within the organization.

In addition to possible corruption, the financial practices of Islamic Relief USA have come into question in the past few years as discrepancies in their reported numbers came to light. Prior to 2011, the organization claimed that 93.8 percent of its contributions were spent on charity, while the remainder was left for overhead. In reality, however, only 74 percent of the contributions were spent on charity.

As of 2012, Charity Navigator reported Islamic Relief USA had a score of 70 out of 70 for transparency and accountability, indicating that since the issues involving their finances, things appear to be on the mend. With a total contribution of $62,288,900 in 2012, 88.8 percent of this total went to charity.

With information about possible corruption and financial discrepancies competing with charity success stories, Islamic Relief USA is a challenge to decipher. The improvements in transparency and percentage of donations funneled toward charity are promising, however, for the future of Islamic Relief USA and its methods of aiding the world.

— Maggie Wagner

Sources: Charity Navigator, Islamic Relief USA 1, Clarion Project, Forbes
Photo: Islamic Relief USA 2