MALI, Bamako — For the children and citizens of Mali, times have been tough. Since 2010, Mali has been beset with extreme poverty and continued food insecurity, as drought and violence have ravished the nation’s limited resources. According to a March 2014 report, roughly 1.5 million people suffer from a lack of food, a number that looks to reach 1.9 million during this year’s lean season. Making matters worse, approximately four out of 10 children under the age of five are chronically malnourished while one out of four is underweight.
“Typically, they will need to be treated with antibiotics for a respiratory infection, for example. They will also require therapeutic milk to give them back some energy and restore the metabolism which has become confused. Only after that stage does it become possible to start working on their weight,” says Dioncounda Traore, Mali’s interim President, when speaking about Mali’s high malnourishment rate.
Luckily, Mali has reason for hope as several key organizations and countries have stepped up to the plate in an effort to rebuild the fragile nation. At a recent international donor conference, French President Francois Hollande, co-chair of the Brussels conference, said donations exceeded $2.5 billion in relief for Mali, a much needed boost for a region that ranks 182 out of 188 countries on the UN Human Development Index. Initial funding will go toward rebuilding government and military institutions, organizing peace talks among rebel groups and stimulating the economy.
“We need water, health, justice, jobs [and]fairness,” added Traore.
While the funding is well received, the international aid agency, Oxfam, said that donors will need to commit to developmental funding for at least 15 years for any of the results to be sustainable.
“Crises such as Afghanistan and Somalia have shown that a narrow approach to winning a military conflict is never enough to achieve long-term peace and security,” said Oxfam. Also joining the brigade of Mali supporters is the European Union Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
“This partnership should be multiplied and strengthened across the country,” said Traore. “ECHO’s support makes a real difference to preventing relapses and improving the quality of the service.” The European Union also recently pledged $673 in funding that will set out to restoring democracy in the country.
“The support of the international community is essential to establish a Mali that is stable, democratic and prosperous. But the principal actors in this transition are the Malians themselves and their government,” said European Commision President Jose Manuel Barroso.
One of Mali’s top goals will be creating sustainable practices to improve living conditions for those living with malnourishment and hunger. Out of all the causes, the top three reasons for malnutrition include a lack of food security due to irregular rainfall, limited access to health facilities and unhealthy rearing habits such as not breastfeeding newborns for the first six months of their lives. While poverty and malnourishment continue to run amuck in Mali, recent support from international agencies and foreign leaders give Malians a reason to hope for a better future.