Mali, West Africa
Mali is a sub-Saharan landlocked country that is located on the west side of Africa. Geographically, Mali is one of the largest countries on the continent1 but it hosts a relatively low total population of approximately 17.9 million2. Since its decolonization from France in 1960, Mali has suffered hardships from extreme weather conditions, political unrest, and prolonged rule by a military dictatorship1. Extreme poverty and famine, predominantly the widespread famine which struck during the 1980s3, has had a lasting effect on Malians. Today, Mali is one of the least developed countries in the world4. Its traditional economy is primarily dominated by agriculture and many agrarian ethnic communities can be found along the banks of the meandering Niger River5. The communities that are partnered with HATN are located a short distance northeast of the country’s capital, Bamako.
VIDEO! HATN in Mali
Access to an improved water source has increased for many in Mali in recent years, although 1 in four people still suffer from water insecurity6. Those four million people primarily live in rural areas where 50% have no access to improved water sources7. Like many places suffering from water insecurity, a lack of a reliable source nearby for rural villages in Mali often means that women and children have to spend long and treacherous hours searching for water through harsh and uncooperative terrain.
Water scarcity often forces those affected to resort to drinking water that is high-risk. High-risk water refers to water that it is hazardous and possesses a strong potential to cause negative health effects. This implies the water is of poor quality and contains either chemical or biological contaminants, or both. Indeed, poor water quality and inadequate sanitation has historically resulted in Guinea Worm posing a significant threat for many Malians8. However, international support has begun to materialize and create lasting health benefits for the people of Mali. Amazingly, for over two years (prior to January 2018), Mali has not recorded a single human case of Guinea Worm9. Despite this significant milestone, in 2016 the World Bank reported that, in Mali, one in ten children die before their fifth birthday10. Some charities have been reported to note that this is a direct result of water scarcity and water-related disease11.
With part of the country stretching far into the Sahara Desert, Malians and agencies supporting Mali must be diligent and innovative with respect to managing its limited water resources. It is clear that the effects of the Global Water Crisis are felt strongly in Mali. Studies have suggested that providing water and sanitation for those who do not have it in Mali is the best way to expedite development and improve quality of life7. HATN concurs with this contention, but asserts that health and education are also vital complements.
The widespread deprivation of basic needs in Mali has impeded the country’s ability to provide adequate healthcare. It has been reported that a large proportion of healthcare funding is provided to Mali through foreign aid12. Such a dependency is unfavorable and threatens the country’s ability to grow and develop sustainably and autonomously. The high number of small communities that are roughly interconnected makes it difficult to strategically locate communal medical facilities within a reachable proximity, especially since communities are often sparsely distributed across the vast landscape. Even upon arrival to a health center, many Malians find that the medical facilities lack the necessary supplies, medications, or personnel to receive proper treatment12.
“In the 1990s it was reported that there were a mere five doctors per 100,000 inhabitants. Indeed, the shortage of health services is indicated in a 1999 report that found that only 36% of Malians were within a five-kilometer radius of healthcare facilities.”12
Common disease in Mali includes malaria, dengue fever, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, meningitis, and other diarrheal diseases. Food shortages and inadequate sanitation significantly increase the risk of acquiring disease and the limited foundation of healthcare infrastructure makes simple treatment become unnecessarily problematic.
According to the United Nations, Mali is one of the most precarious and dangerous places to grow up13; a frightening notion provided that the average age of their population in 2013 was only sixteen14. Many children will not live long enough to celebrate that birthday. At the turn of the century, child mortality was nearly 25% and chronic malnutrition nearly 33%13. However, around that time, different government programs, such as the five-year health investment plan13, started leading Mali in the right direction, away from its painful and difficult past. Expansive growth in healthcare support will be necessary to remain on a path promising a wholesome future.
Mali’s history of political instability has made developing and maintaining effective education policies challenging; plans and programs have, historically, been short-lived. Setbacks date to as recently as 2013 where it was found that over the course of two years primary enrollment dropped 8.5% (from 92%) and completion rate decreased by 3% to a mere 59%15. In response, Mali rolled out an interim education sector plan (PIRSEF) while they look to more comprehensively reform following the completion of a full sector analysis.
According to the Global Partnership for Education, PIRSEF has three main objectives:
- “Improve the quality of teaching and learning by improving professional qualifications for learners, adapting training offerings, and promoting scientific research.
- Improve access to education by building and rehabilitating more facilities, recruiting teachers, fostering social mobilization and stakeholder involvement, and promoting inclusive education.
- Strengthen the governance of education and vocational training by involving communities in school management, supporting the monitoring and evaluation system, and supporting the preparation of a Ten Year Education Sector Plan.”15
While the new plan on the horizon looks promising, and despite that PIRSEF looks to continue to be a constructive step forward, often times government resources fail to fully provide for communities on the margin. Like supplementing for health care, rural and isolated communities can benefit from diversified support in the education sector. Another effective option is forming strong partnerships between government and aid stakeholders to effectively coordinate activities, such as pooling funds to provide and retain teaching services.
In 2016, the United Nations reported that the expected number of years in schooling was 8.4 and the average (mean) number of years in schooling was 2.34. Both of these figures are relatively low even among countries located in sub-Saharan Africa.
Capital City: Bamako
Adult Literacy Rate: 38.7%
Life Expectancy: 58.5 yr (173rd)
GNI: $2,218 (162nd)
HDI: 0.442 (175th)
HDI Classification: ‘Low’
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