Recently, the African country of Mali has made international headlines as French and Malian forces seek to oust Islamist rebels from the northern part of the country. The conflict in the north has disrupted economic development projects throughout the country, including for Aid for Africa member Medicine for Mali, which works in Mali’s southwest.
An important component of Medicine for Mali’s work is the annual trip of some 20 volunteers — primarily doctors, nurses, and medical students from Des Moines, Iowa, and other parts of the U.S. — to seven remote villages near the town of Siby. These volunteers provide medical care, train health volunteers and restock medical supplies at local clinics. Most of the 8,000 people they serve are subsistence farmers.
During the first medical trips, it became apparent that the Malian villagers had long-term needs that Medicine for Mali could help them meet. These included access to ongoing medical care, clean water, improved education and small business development, according to Jill DeVore, a member of Medicine for Mali’s board and a participant in many annual trips.
Medicine for Mali now supports teacher training and girls’ education through scholarships that help keep girls in school. It also provides small loans, primarily to purchase seeds and livestock to increase family incomes through farming. 70 percent of the loan recipients are women. Local volunteer health workers, who were trained during previous medical missions, monitor village health and provide advice. Vaccination programs provide tetanus shots to children and pregnant women.
Although the fight to push the militants out of northern Mali appears successful, the Iowa group will suspend its annual medical trip to Mali this year. Abdoulaye Bagayoko, a Malian physician who has overseen on-the-ground operations since 2005, said that villagers are less concerned about the rebels than they are about the cancellation of the annual medical mission. But this year, funds from the U.S-based charity will pay for a medical team from Bamako, Mali’s capital, to travel to the southwest to provide some of the services usually offered by the U.S. team. And because Medicine for Mali ensured that the long-term education and health programs are run by Malians, these services will not be disrupted.
Find Mali on the map on our Where We Work page in the upper left part of the countries in green. Roll over and click on the country to learn which other members work there.
Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africa’s grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.