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Sanitation in Mali
Access to proper sanitation and clean water is a relatively simple yet incredibly important part of protecting public health. For developing nations like Mali, it can be hard to come by. In rural areas, only 30% of people have access to clean water. This puts them at risk for diarrhea, which is responsible for one out of every nine child deaths in the world. Further, most schools do not have proper toilets for their students, and about half lack a clean water source altogether. People must undergo steps to provide safe water and improve sanitation in Mali. Luckily, some organizations, like Save the Children, are attempting to help.

Save the Children

The Save the Children Fund has been supporting kids around the world since 1919. It works to improve communities in many sectors, including healthcare, education, community development and more. Save the Children first arrived in Mali in 1987 and has been on the ground defending the country’s most vulnerable ever since.

Waterborne diseases pose a great threat to children in developing countries. One of the best ways to tackle this crisis is through proper water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) products and services. Accordingly, Save the Children has made this a center of attention in its work through the Clean Household Approach (CHA) program. The CHA program emphasizes the importance of WASH products and services and is working to reduce the risk of childhood diarrhea and sanitation in Mali.

Previous programs often looked at the issue from a communal perspective. Public resources became the focus rather than looking at what people could accomplish in each individual household. “People care for and maintain personal belongings better than communal property,” Save the Children reported. With this in mind, the CHA program directs efforts at the household level and not at the community level. Instead of providing sanitation equipment at a communal well where people draw water from, the program is making change directly in the homes where people consume the water.

The Clean Household Approach Program (CHA)

The CHA program differs from other programs with similar goals because it does not simply offer financial aid, it also uses a market-based approach. Save the Children recognizes that household sanitation commodities are not something that people tend to prioritize. Families put food and shelter above the often expensive equipment necessary to secure clean water. To circumvent this, Save the Children is making household sanitation commodities both accessible and desirable.

The CHA program provides vouchers that subsidize the cost of WASH products and services. The program typically provides vouchers after a household member attends a meeting on proper handwashing or a visit to a physician. It also uses a variety of incentives to encourage families to invest in WASH products and services. For example, a home can meet “Clean Household” status by satisfying certain criteria pertaining to proper sanitation practices. They then receive the award of a flag to note their success.

The CHA program also uses marketing strategies and social norms to try to emphasize the importance of WASH products and services. Additionally, Save the Children provides training and collaborates with local business owners to ensure that a supply of WASH products and services is always available.

WASH products and services work. The risk of diarrheal infections falls 47% with proper handwashing, 17% with better water quality and 36% with better sanitation. Through projects like the CHA program, Save the Children has been able to keep over 1 million children healthy and nourished in Mali. It continues to change lives around the world and has shown no signs of slowing down in its support for sanitation in Mali.

– Evan Driscoll
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in MaliOne of the largest countries in Africa, the Republic of Mali sits landlocked in the northwestern chunk of the continent. While it is known more recently as one of the most impoverished and unstable countries, thousands of years ago Mali was a cultural epicenter. The Niger and Senegal rivers that cross through the country made Mali one of the richest countries due to a flourishing trans-Saharan trade economy. With goods came literature, art, music and discovery, transforming the Malian city of Timbuktu into a vital center for scholarship. Though Timbuktu’s cultural reputation and Mali’s musical achievements have continued, the country as a whole faces many challenges. About half of Mali’s total population lives in poverty, facing exceedingly unhealthy circumstances as a result, partially due to poor sanitation. Mali’s journey toward achieving proper hygiene and sanitation is detailed in the following facts.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mali

  1. In 2017, the WHO and UNICEF discovered 52% of Malian households nationally have access to basic hygienic facilities, just below the global average of 60%. In rural areas though, access to facilities drops down to just 39%. These averages are higher than other African countries, like Ethiopia and Burundi, that have less than 10% access to facilities in rural areas.
  2. UNICEF also found about 7% of Malians still practice open defecation, causing preventable illnesses connected to improper sanitation. Diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria unequally affect children, producing some of the highest child and infant mortality rates in the world. However, in 2018, UNICEF, USAID and its partner organization JIGI implemented Community-Led Total Sanitation models (CLTS) as a way to decrease open defecation in rural communities. CLTS helped more than 3,500 villages eradicate open defecation, improving the lives of almost three million people due to increased awareness of personal hygiene and sanitation.
  3. Thanks to humanitarian aid from various organizations, 80% of Mali’s national population has access to safe drinking water and in rural areas, 70% have access. In 2019, UNICEF and its partners provided water supply services to more than 194,500 people, including water points and latrines in 95 schools and 61 health centers.
  4. In 2018, a Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study discovered diarrheal diseases stood as the third-highest cause of death in Mali, beaten by neonatal diseases and malaria. However, it is worth noting that due to sanitation improvement measures, the rate of death from diarrheal diseases declined by almost 9% between 2008 and 2017.
  5. Currently, 52%of the population does not have access to a handwashing facility, weakening how Malians can effectively combat diseases. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has begun distributing handwashing devices with the goal of sending up to 4,000. In a joint report with UNICEF and the WHO published in April concerning COVID-19, they specified that “frequent and correct hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus”. They also recommend proper water sanitation and waste management to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  6. About 50% of schools have improved water access, though only 20% have working, gender-separated latrines. Due to the coronavirus, more than 1,000 schools have closed for the time being, cutting off access to what could be a child’s only functioning toilet.
  7. Since 2012, armed conflicts have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people in addition to violence and abuse of children. This instability has created a decrease in the successful delivery of humanitarian aid, which the country largely relies on for assistance with sanitation needs. The coronavirus pandemic has also slowed the services usually given to Mali.
  8. In April, the World Bank approved a $25.8 million grant to support Mali’s response to the coronavirus. The money contributes to health care services, screening and treatment of patients. The initial funding will focus on Mali’s response to the virus and the country’s ability to handle the health and economic impacts to come with an already fragile health system. The grant will also allow Mali to continue essential services like clean water and education.
  9. The humanitarian organization World Vision joined the Mali Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (MIWASH) to construct 208 new water points in 2019, allowing more than 100,000 people access to sanitation facilities while increasing hygiene education. World Vision has also implemented numerous latrine stalls, handwashing kits and hygienic education services through its additional projects, reaching 15,400 children in 51 schools.
  10. In 2016, UNESCO, U.N.-Women, UNFPA and KOICA implemented the “Empowering Girls and Young Women through Education in Mali” project to help girls and young women seek better living conditions through equitable education. The project involves educating girls about feminine hygiene and their reproductive rights to decrease the rates at which young girls drop out of school, have children and marry while still children themselves. One aspect of the project involves access to clean water and sanitation facilities. One of the many achievements the project has made since its creation includes the construction and mending of 137 latrines suitable for girls in Bamako.

Poor sanitation is not the only problem plaguing Mali but it does create a tidal wave of other preventable issues that Malians have to struggle with. Disease, higher mortality rates and malnutrition result from improper sanitation of water and toilet facilities. However, continued investments by the Malian government along with support from international players will help with country to improve sanitation in Mali for its citizens going forward. 

Maria Marabito
Photo: Flickr