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impact of conflict on poverty
Conflict can be a catalyst for an array of poverty-related events. It can impact poverty by depleting resources, interrupting supply chains, destroying infrastructure, taking lives and much more. Unfortunately, this trend has held in the country of Mali, which currently shows the significant impact of conflict on poverty.

Conflict Background and Economic Impact

The Mali War is an ongoing conflict that began in January of 2012. Since then, violence between the North and South of Mali has ebbed and flowed in severity but never subsided. Malian people, including the Tuareg, in the North of Mali, have expressed resentment and concern, as they feel that governmental groups and political factions have been neglecting their concerns and treating them unfairly. Ethnic divides, fundamentalist fighters and an unstable political system are a few issues that have caused this conflict.

There have been thousands of deaths and thousands of more people fleeing the conflict. As mentioned previously, many connect the weak economic sector in Mali to the outbreak of unrest and violence. Almost cyclically, this violence is now negatively impacting the economic sector. Before the conflict broke out, tourism accounted for more than 40% of Mali’s GDP. Researchers estimate that 8,000 people lost their job due to the drastic decrease in tourism after the conflict began. The economic connection highlights the ranging impact of conflict on poverty.

Many of those living in the North of Mali, mostly Tuareg and Arab groups, depend on the agricultural sector for their income. The government has invested very little in this sector and focuses primarily on tourism and the export of gold and cotton from the South. This has led many agricultural producers in the South to grow jaded towards the government due to their increased likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty.

The Impact on Public Health

Roughly 1 in 3 children in Mali are facing chronic malnutrition. An annual average of nearly four million people in Mali do not have access to an adequate amount of food. More than half of Mali’s children and young adults are illiterate and have been pushed out of school due to displacement. Many children in Mali are at great risk of being recruited into militant groups, further threatening their safety, educational resources, and ability to climb from poverty.

At its base level, the conflict in Mali threatens public health by the sheer loss of life it has caused. In 2018, hundreds of civilians were killed by armed groups. The byproducts of this violence caused even more people to experience extreme poverty, malnutrition and death. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have fled Mali altogether to avoid the violence. This stunts Mali’s economic growth, which reaffirms the dangerous impact of conflict on poverty.

Current Aid and Support Efforts

A military coup ousted the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, on August 19th, 2020. President Bah Ndaw became the interim leader of Mali and will hold the position until an election can be held. Some are hopeful that if a legitimate election can be held, much of the conflict in Mali will subside. In the meantime, many local and international nonprofit organizations have mobilized to aid in poverty-reduction efforts throughout Mali.

  1. For example, World Vision began providing aid in Mali in 1975, even before the conflict. In 2012 during the height of the conflict, World Vision provided aid in the form of food, clean water, and shelter to more than 150,000 people throughout Mali. Additionally, more than 60,000 children in Mali are currently benefiting from World Vision’s child sponsorship program. The program allows donors to provide monetary assistance to and communicate with an impoverished child. Many of these sponsored children in Mali reside within conflict-ridden areas.
  2. Peace Direct, another nonprofit organization, focuses on peacebuilding efforts in Mali. They support communities in their implementation of peacebuilding; in 2019 alone, they supported more than 20 projects throughout Mali. Peace Direct realizes the importance of community growth, both physically and emotionally, to peacebuilding. A lack of communal trust can be detrimental to poverty reduction, as teamwork makes progress more effective and efficient. Additionally, the building of trust and understanding among conflict groups is essential to support continued growth and stability throughout Mali. This trust will prevent future conflicts and allow Mali to focus on joint economic growth and poverty-reduction tactics throughout their country.

    3. “The Peacebuilding Stabilization and Reconciliation Project,” run through USAID, began in April of 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in March of 2023. This project focuses on rebuilding many of the conflict-ridden areas throughout Mali, providing rehabilitation resources to those impacted by the violence, increasing civic engagement and helping Mali’s government introduce barriers to prevent violent outbreaks in the future. USAID believes that providing community members with an active role in their governance will decrease dissent, enhance democratic values, reduce the likelihood of future conflict and decrease the joint poverty level throughout Mali. Success will also ideally increase GDP and overall well being while mitigating the impact of conflict on poverty in Mali.

The Future of the Region

The domino effect that violence can have on the prosperity of a nation is not a surprise. Violence decreases an individual’s ability to focus on economic growth or public health. It overtakes governmental initiatives and attention from the media, forcing poverty-related issues to take a backseat. The importance of the international community supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mali remains essential. The path toward peace will trickle-down benefits for many subsets of Mali’s society and will decrease the occurrence of extreme poverty throughout the nation.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: UN Multimedia

As the pandemic ranges on, Mali discovered a way to connect with and inform its citizens. This landlocked African country relies on radio stations, like Mikado FM, to raise awareness around COVID-19 and implement the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines. In the capital of Bamako, popular shows, like “Midikado,” test listener’s knowledge about social distancing procedures, offer gifts to informed participants and outline the virus’s symptoms. Through these tactics, Mali radio stations seek to aid their country throughout the health crisis.

Promoting Peace & Conversation

Mali radio stations did not always possess the power and breadth they have today. Rather, they arrived when the country needed to negotiate peace and quell ethnic divisions. In 2013, terrorist organizations associated with Al-Qaeda attacked the region, encouraging dissent and division. To assist the country, France deployed troops as the United Nations (U.N.) developed its Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

Now considered the most dangerous U.N. mission, MINUSMA barely managed to negotiate a peace accord in 2015 that focused on disarmament and demobilization. Violence still plagues the country, especially as Dogon farmers and Fulani herders – two warring ethnic groups – continue to fight for territory. As the U.N. prepared to leave Mali, MINUSMA decided to fund radio stations to promote peace and encourage conversations.

Adapting to COVID-19

When COVID-19 arrived in March, Mali radio stations switched their focus from peacekeeping to healthcare and advocacy. Mikado FM received the most attention as its programs specialize in reaching as many communities as possible.

Reaching-Out to Isolated Communities

Thanks to MINUSMA’s Quick Impact Project (QIP), Mali radio stations increased their frequency through more “powerful transmitters.” The U.N. also provided Mali radio stations with “laptops, microphones, headsets and digital voice recorders.” The U.N. hoped these radio stations would reach out to isolated communities and curb ethnic violence.

Stations, like Mikado FM, fulfilled their promise and even adapted their programs to keep isolated communities updated about COVID-19. 67% of the population cannot read or write, making Mali radio stations vital information sources.

Mikado FM supports the needs of isolated communities by playing its programs in various languages. Dispersing information in French, Bambara, Songhay, Tamasheq, Fulani and Arabic helps every community feel valued and protected.

Creating Shows Around Healthcare

Mali radio stations adapted their programs to include updated information about the virus. Mainly, Mikado FM engages with its listeners during every episode, posing two questions about COVID-19 for listeners to answer. This vigorous questioning keeps the public vigilant about COVID-19 symptoms and prevention.

Mali radio stations now devote a weekly show to health and well-being. By speaking with the deputy director of the National Health Department, Abdoulaye Guindo, and the World Health Organization’s representative in Mali, Dr. Jean-Pierre Baptiste, these radio stations also keep listeners informed about the work of government health agencies

Mikado FM even added a psychologist to their staff to discuss the importance of mental health during the pandemic. The station also pioneered a children’s show entitled “Coronavirus Explained to Children” to test children’s knowledge about the virus and keep them entertained while quarantined.

Countering Misinformation

While updating, testing and supporting communities, these stations also work to counter misinformation, “fake news” and rumors surrounding the virus. Several hosts at Mikado FM monitored social media and noticed that “rumors and misinformation [were] spreading faster than the pandemic.”

To dispel misinformation, Mikado FM launched their show “Le vrai du faux,” or “True From False.” The host of this show, Aboubacar Dicko, finds fake news stories circulating across social media and debunks them “to quickly set the record straight.” Shows like these decrease the public’s fears as their listeners receive accurate information about the virus.

Success Continues

From peacekeeping to the pandemic, Mali radio stations, like Mikado FM, “work around the clock” to support their communities during crises. Mali’s citizens remain hopeful about their country’s future as violence ebbs and misinformation fades. Despite ethnic divisions and mandatory quarantines, citizens can rely on Mali radio stations as “lifelines” for information.

Kyler Juarez
Photo: Pixabay

poverty in Mali
A land-locked, predominantly rural society with limited women’s rights, a poor healthcare 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. Over 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 will likely be exacerbated by the increased poverty due to COVID-19. 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, Malian women are treated as property to be bought and sold. This oppressive culture along with widespread poverty in Mali has greatly contributed to about 49% of Malian girls being forced to marry before they turn 18, 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, over 100,000 women and children received nutritional supplements and new water sanitation facilities were established in communities threatened by 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

health sector communication
Communication is key when it comes to developing a well-performing healthcare system. Ineffective communication within healthcare systems “increases the likelihood of negative patient outcomes,” overall costs for healthcare systems, and “patient utilization of inpatient and emergency care.” Meanwhile, sound health sector communication ensures the maintenance of overall health and helps prevent diseases and premature death. Thus, it is important to ensure that healthcare systems across the globe are well equipped and supported. Recent developments in mobile technologies have made it easier to do so and transformed health-sector communication in several countries.

mHERO

A recently developed mobile application, called mHERO, has become one of the latest mobile applications to demonstrate the powerful and wide-reaching role that technology plays in health-sector communication. Created in 2014 by IntraHelath International and UNICEF, mHERO is a mobile-based application used by healthcare workers and ministries of health in order to communicate and coordinate effectively and efficiently. The application was developed during the 2014 Liberian Ebola outbreak after recognizing the need for a way to communicate urgent messages to frontline healthcare workers, to collect data concerning outbreaks development, and to provide support and training.

Messages sent through the application are transmitted through basic text or SMS. The app is compatible with most cellular devices. By merging existing health information systems, such as Integrated Human Resources Information System (iHRIS) and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), with popular communication platforms, such as RapidPro, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, mHERO acts as a cost-efficient, accessible and sustainable resource for many healthcare systems.

Implementation in Liberia 2014

The 2014 West African Ebola outbreak overwhelmed the Liberian healthcare sector. The absence of effective communication channels blocked the supply of vital information from health officials to health workers. UNICEF and IntraHealth International created mHERO to address the communication challenge. The application was initially designed to suit the needs of the Liberian healthcare system, utilizing the technology that was already available in the country. It then became the responsibility of the ministry of health to effectively manage and maintain the application’s implementation and its continued use.

Liberia utilized mHERO to validate healthcare facility data, to update health workers and to track which facilities need additional resources. Today, health officials use mHero to coordinate the country’s response to COVID-19. mHERO has become an integral part of the Liberian healthcare system, maintaining a vital role in health-sector communication.

Development and Reach

Guinea, Mali and Sierra Leone followed Liberia’s lead with the mHero integration process. The implementation guidelines and intent of use in these countries have generally remained the same as Liberia’s. Mali, however, has implemented the application with a need to train and develop the skills of healthcare workers.

Uganda, as of 2020, has also incorporated mHERO into its healthcare system with the intent of reducing the spread of COVID-19. The application has allowed for easier COVID-19-related communication between ministries of health, health officials and healthcare workers.

Uganda employes a developed form of the application with an extension called FamilyConnect. The extension sends “targeted lifecycle messages via SMS to pregnant mothers, new mothers, heads of household and caregivers about what they need to do to keep babies and mothers safe in the critical first 1,000 days of life” as long as they have been registered with the Ministry of Health’s Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH). Mothers can register themselves or can choose to have registration done by a community health worker.

Future Plans

UNICEF and IntraHealth International want to expand access to mHERO. Counties in East and West Africa have indicated an interest in implementing the application. UNICEF and IntraHealth International intend to continue to support the ministries of health and healthcare systems in which mHERO has already been implemented. They also hope to find new ways to encourage ministries of health “to understand the interoperability of the technology, the processes for implementation and best practices to using mHero data.”

Overall, mHERO has substantially improved health-sector communication within several countries, proving the application’s potential for revolutionizing health-sector communication throughout the world. Developments can be made to expand the application’s capabilities and reach, as proven in Uganda. The application is a sustainable and cost-efficient resource for healthcare systems and helps reduce the chances of premature death along with the spread of diseases and misinformation. It provides crucial support to healthcare workers, especially during times of epidemics, increasing the overall quality of healthcare and life.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

How Goats Fight PovertyGoats are the animals of choice for many humanitarian groups across the world looking to provide life-saving, sustainable aid. From East Asia to Haiti, these animals have saved the lives of countless families suffering from poverty and starvation. Goats are particularly sought after in countries where agriculture is prominent. Nearly 85 percent of the world’s farmers are smallholder farmers, meaning that they limited resources. Smallholder farmers typically earn income through the cultivation of one or two crops planted on a tiny plot of land. Many humanitarian groups are highlighting how goats fight poverty through various campaigns.

How Goats Fight Poverty

Goats are the animal of choice for humanitarian groups for a plethora of reasons. From their behavior to their eating patterns, goats are easy to raise and supply marketable produce. For small farmers, goats are much less expensive to raise than cows or buffalo. Their diet mainly consists of grasses and shrubs, allowing them to survive even through inclement conditions such as droughts and crop failure.

Furthermore, goats reach sexual maturity at an early age and reproduce rather quickly. A female goat can give birth up to two times a year. In many impoverished areas, baby goats benefit the entire community as opposed to just one family – instead of being kept on the same farm as its mother, a baby goat is often gifted to an impoverished neighbor.

Goats and Children

Many children living in impoverished conditions do not have adequate access to a nutritious diet. Goats can provide the milk, cheese and protein needed to balance a child’s nutritional needs thus reducing dependency on protein from plant-based sources. This is particularly beneficial for children living in countries like Haiti where crops are often destroyed by natural disasters.

Rearing goats helps families living in poverty to support their children’s educational needs in more than one way. Goats offer a means to break the cycle of generational poverty, providing households with a source of income to send their children to school. Furthermore, with healthful meal options from goats, children will have full stomachs during the day allowing them to focus on their studies.

Recent Programs Involving Goats

One organization, in particular, has recently participated in the effort to alleviate poverty with goats. SIDA, short for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, launched a program in western Mali following a 2014 drought. To help, SIDA provided families suffering from food shortage with two assets: goats and seeds. With these two resources, the organization was able to successfully stabilize Malinese livestock herds to combat the lack of flourishing greens.

SIDA was not only able to alleviate poverty with goats in western Mali, but the organization took things a step further by sharing best practices such as care techniques to ensure sustainability. To date, SIDA’s record in western Mali proves to be exemplary. About 2,610 households in the country received goats to combat food insecurity and provide hope for future generations.

The Future for Goat Farmers

Countless personal stories from smallholder farmers have shown the lifechanging effects a goat can have on a community. These creatures seem to be the perfect solution for rural penury, however, there is one problem that stands in the way: goats are not immune to diseases. Organizations like the African Union Inter African Bureau for Animal Resources have been readily responding to this issue, but it demands much more attention as goats have become an integral part of farming life for poor families around the world.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Electricity Coverage Rising in Africa
It is hard to imagine life without electricity. In the American standard of living, electricity pervades every aspect of a person’s life, from food storage to entertainment and everything in between. In Africa, however, only 30 percent of people have access to electricity.

Power Africa

Power Africa is a USAID agency that aims to provide people in Africa with access to electricity. They plan to make 60 new electricity connections and generate 30,000 more megawatts (MW) of electricity across the continent by 2030. The goal is to do this by harnessing the sun, wind, lake water, and natural gas to power rural areas that do not have access to electricity.

Power Africa tracks its progress on various projects by tracking business transactions with African power companies. For example, in 2016, they made a deal with the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative (ACEF), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Department of State to provide $30 million worth of financing of 32 renewable energy projects in 10 countries in Africa. With Power Africa’s help, 90 business transactions have been completed and 25 of Africa’s 55 countries now have access to some form of electricity. Examples from Power Africa actions are described in a text below.

Mali

Although the demand for electricity in Mali is currently greater than the supply, that does not mean that there is no supply at all. Electricity in Mali currently comes from mostly hydraulic and thermal energy (55 and 44 percent, respectively). Power Africa plans to help Mali produce an additional 80 MW of hydroelectric energy, more than 300 MW from biomass, and unlimited MW from the sun.

Electricity usage has already gone up in Mali. Major mining companies increased their energy consumption by 136 MW (189 percent) between 2008 and 2011. In 2016, the government passed a law mandating partnerships between public and private electric companies in order to increase MW production. The ultimate goal is to make an additional 20,000 MW of energy and distribute it to 50 million people by 2020.

Namibia

Currently, Namibia gets most of its electricity from power grids in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and other nearby countries. However, electricity demand in these countries is way higher than supply, forcing Namibia to find ways to generate its own electricity. As of 2008, Namibia can only generate 393 MW from 3 stations, while the national demand is 533 MW.

One of these stations, the Ruacana power station, is dependent on the flow of water from the Kunene River, which flows out of Angola. Another station, the coal-run Eck power station, is costly to operate and maintain. Eck, along with the oil-based Paratus power station, is only used for short-term peaks in electricity demand.

For the time being, Namibia still needs to have its electricity needs met by its neighbors. The Caprivi link is a transmission line that connects Namibia’s power grid to those in Zambia and Zimbabwe. This provides the country with an additional 600 MW, fulfilling Namibia’s electricity needs. In 2007, Namibia consumed 3.6 TWh of electricity.

Tanzania

Most of Tanzania’s electricity (90 percent) comes from biomass. This has resulted in mass deforestation and, thus, is far from ideal for the ecosystem. Only 18.4 percent of Tanzanian citizens have access to electricity in any form. Currently, the country is financially incapable of extending the power grid into all rural areas.

In 1975, the government founded the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Ltd (TANESCO). TANESCO has a nationwide monopoly on electricity production and distribution. However, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals (MEM) is trying to end this monopoly by allowing companies to get licenses to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. The Rural Energy Agency (REA) is slowly getting electricity into rural areas. With these services, the government aims to make electricity available to everyone in Tanzania, and one can see electricity coverage rising from their efforts.

Conclusion

In the modern day, electricity seems like a basic ingredient for life that it seems like everyone should have it. The people in Power Africa agree and we can see electricity coverage rising in Africa as a result of their efforts. Mali is making more energy from more sources than ever, Namibia is starting to make its own electricity, and Tanzania is spreading electricity out as far as it can. Africa is becoming more and more electrified, reaching the ultimate goal- provide access to electricity for everyone on the continent.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in MaliMali adopted a new Family Code in 2011 which stated that men are to be considered the head of the household and women have to obey their husbands. The Family Code grants men sole parental authority and allows them to have up to four wives. In light of such discriminatory laws, biases and social norms, women’s empowerment in Mali remains a distant dream.

As per the 2013 International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) by CARE International, the following are the key factors that hinder women’s empowerment in Mali:

  1. The support for inequitable norms by men and women is extremely high.
  2. Younger men and women, those in urban areas and those with more education generally show support for more equitable norms but are in the minority.
  3. The vast majority of men continue to be resistant to women’s work outside the home.
  4. Polygamy, which is the reality for 18 percent of men and 47 percent of women, continues to be supported by many.
  5. Exposure to violence as children (witnessing and experiencing it directly) is strongly associated with women experiencing Inter-Partner Violence and men perpetrating it.
  6. High rates of violence, including sexual violence, both witnessed and experienced during childhood (in the home, in communities and in schools).
  7. Economic stress was reported frequently in qualitative results, particularly the pressure on men to provide for their families.
  8. Gender socialization of children in Mali continues to reinforce gender inequality.
  9. There is extremely limited participation by men in domestic chores and the care of children.
  10. High support for some traditional practices, including excision, which 95 percent of women interviewed said they had experienced.

However, a bold step has been made towards bringing about women’s empowerment in Mali by adopting a landmark gender quota bill that requires a minimum of 30 percent of elected and appointed officials to be women. Young educated men and women continue to struggle for gender parity.

Gender inequality has been reduced in primary education due to campaigns that encourage the enrollment of girls in school but no progress is visible in secondary education because of lack of targeted action and a prevailing sexist attitude.

The transition to women’s empowerment in Mali remains too slow and limited in the presence of strong resistance and gender biases by the women themselves. The most effective method would be to increase men’s understanding of the benefits of an equal society like family health, increased income and child survival. As per the IMAGES report, the key is to develop a more positive notion of masculinity and integrate men’s role in promoting gender equity.

– Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

How Emergency Transportation Has Addressed Disparity Gaps in Women's HealthIn September 2017, the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) High Impact Health Services Project constructed emergency transport systems in Tienfala, a small community located in Mali, which has allowed for pregnant women to be transported to health facilities in order to give birth. This project was a part of USAID’s efforts to increase health outcomes around the world and close the consistently widening disparity gaps in women’s health.

According to USAID, the completion of the emergency transport systems were in large thanks to a community effort. People from the small Tienfala community worked together in order to help increase the health outcomes of pregnant women in their community. USAID’s project in Tienfala is very promising for the promotion of women and girls in developing countries.

Many other organizations have placed a focus on increasing the health outcomes of women and girls in developing countries in order to address the widening disparity gaps in women’s health around the world. In fact, the aim of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in regards to women and girls, is to “promote the equal rights of women and girls and to support their full participation in the political, social and economic development of their communities.”

Like UNICEF, USAID has placed a value on promoting women’s health in developing countries like Mali. Specifically, according to USAID, the focus of the High Impact Health Services Project is to decrease the incidence of maternal and child deaths, and the construction of the emergency transport systems in Tienfala has greatly helped reduce such mortality rates.

Kadia Coulibably, a woman from Tienfala, lacked any sort of prenatal care during her fourth pregnancy, reports USAID. However, the emergency transport systems allowed Coulibably to experience an organized, healthy childbirth. Without the valuable help of U.S. foreign aid through the governmental agency USAID, Coulibaly may have faced complications during her childbirth due to the lack of proper care.

Of course, a focus on the health of women and girls in developing countries is incredibly vital to the empowerment of women in their respective communities. When pregnant women can receive accessible, adequate health care, they can thrive happily and healthily. Thus, the construction of the emergency transport systems for pregnant women in Mali is a step in the right direction for the advancement of women’s health.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

Climate Change

A military coup has worsened Mali’s national security, amplifying the impact climate change has had on the country and its people. Conflict erupted in northern Mali in 2012. The violence of the proceeding five years has since destroyed the nation’s land, diminishing the abilities local farmers have to grow vegetation.

Since 2012, Mali has witnessed a wave of poor harvests, pushing a food crisis upon the country. Hostile physical and environmental circumstances have forced about 475,000 people from their homes to neighboring countries, and those who remain in Mali face food shortages and security threats. With 25 percent of families moderately to severely food insecure, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimates that 270,000 people face starvation.

Two thirds of Mali is a desert or semi-desert that experiences long yearly periods of drought. Furthermore, the Sahara Desert is expanding southward at a rate of 48 km per year. Climate change has significantly decreased the amount of rainfall, dropping by 30 percent since 1998. Consequently, Mali is also suffering from water scarcity. Only three-fifths of Malians have access to safe drinking water and only about one-third have proper sanitation.

The water shortage has weakened Mali’s agricultural activities, taking an immense toll on its citizens. Agriculture employs 90 percent of the country’s rural population and 70 per cent of Mali’s entire labor force. Cotton, gold and livestock make up 80 to 90 percent of total export earnings.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working on generating food security, particularly between harvests. The organization built a total of 3,966 environmental assets such as ponds, dams, and canals to help alleviate Mali’s lack of water. Technical and economic assistance have been provided for local farmers, broadening Mali’s market and strengthening the agricultural sector.  WFP has also begun providing nutrition support for pregnant women, nursing mothers, underweight children and children under five suffering from chronic and moderate-to-acute malnutrition. Further assistance from organizations like WFP is necessary to lift Mali‘s people from the harsh grips of military conflict and climate change.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Google

Hunger in MaliMali, the eighth-largest country in Africa sits landlocked in the western region of the continent. Hunger in Mali is often driven by drought and conflict in the region. There have been three major droughts that affected Mali in the last decade. In March 2012, the country faced a coup and a rebellion in the north.

According to a report from the World Food Programme, approximately 475,000 people were displaced from their homes after a major conflict in the northern part of the country. The country also suffered from food insecurity and faced issues of nutrition during this time.

In the northern regions of Mali, including Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, about one-fifth of the households experience food shortages. Additionally, approximately 15 percent of children are afflicted with acute malnutrition in Mali, according to the report.

According to an article from Action Against Hunger, rates of malnutrition in Mali “exceed the critical threshold on a national level.” Specifically, the Sahel region of northern Mali is perpetually in a state of nutrition emergency.

Since 1996, Action Against Hunger has provided treatment for malnourished Malians and helped to develop support malnutrition management in public health facilities.

In 2015, the World Food Programme reported that 2.5 million Malians were struggling to feed their families, and just over 300,000 of the country’s residents were considered to be in need of severe food assistance.

The report also stated that over half of the women in Mali are anemic. Furthermore, approximately 80 percent of children in Mali suffer from anemia.

Hunger in Mali is also worsened by over half the country living below the national poverty line. However, aid from global organizations has helped Mali in respect to food insecurity.

According to their report, the World Food Programme utilizes a cross-border operation from Niger to transport food to northern Mali. This organization also assists the country’s residents by providing them with cash to purchase fresh produce.

While hunger in Mali remains a pressing issue, the stress of food insecurity has the potential to be lessened by global organizations.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr