Water Quality in Mali and its Impact on Poverty

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SEATTLE — Mali is a landlocked desert country located in the interior of West Africa. It is one of the world’s poorest nations and has one of the highest infant mortality rates. While much has been done to improve water quality in Mali, the same cannot be said for sanitation facilities, like flush or compost toilets. An estimated 77 percent of the population now has access to clean drinking water, but less than a quarter of the population are able to properly dispose of waste. The poor water quality in Mali results in a high risk of waterborne infectious diseases.

The large population size of Mali means that 12 million people lack proper sanitation and almost four million do not have access to clean water. Poor sanitation and unclean water result in the deaths of approximately 4,500 children each year from diarrhea. The poor water quality in Mali has far-reaching effects and contributes to the fact that more than 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Mali’s extreme weather is responsible for extended droughts and flash floods. These two factors lead to poor harvests and soil erosion. Clashes between radical groups and the government also play a role in poor water quality. More than 10,000 people have been displaced in the violence, with thousands cut off from basic resources like water. With so few accessible clean water sources in the country to begin with, this poses a huge challenge.

As a consequence of Mali’s poverty and violent conflict, the central government has destabilized, making it harder to distribute resources and promote access to basic services like clean water and sanitation. When water is hard to find, people must walk long distances to reach it. The result is that the need to find water supplants attending school or looking for work. Low school attendance translates into a lack of basic education, which contributes to high unemployment and continues the cycle of poverty

Improving access to sanitation and potable water is essential to improving water quality in Mali and helping lift the population out of poverty. Organizations like Charity: Water and WaterAid America work with local groups to focus on building wells, particularly in rural communities, and establishing tap and pipe systems. Access to clean water and sanitary facilities is crucial for promoting longer life spans, lowering infectious disease rates, reducing infant mortality, and cutting Mali’s poverty rate. Water quality in Mali contributes not only to poverty levels. It also impacts the overall quality of life.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Nicole Toomey

Nicole lives in Durham, NC. She has a MS in global health from the Duke Global Health Institute, and her academic interest include health care access, particularly for uninsured and refugee populations. When not writing for The Borgen Project, Nicole works in research and is pursuing a career in nursing, hoping to combine the two eventually. In her free time, Nicole enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, snowboarding, and playing sports.

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