Handicap International is working to support the people of Mali, who have been badly affected first by drought, then by the 2012 conflict which split the country in two. The organisation runs around fifteen projects aimed at helping victims, reducing the risk of disability and malnutrition in young children, improving the inclusion of people with disabilities and supporting reconciliation initiatives.
© Sébastien Rieussec / Handicap International
Against a background of extreme poverty, Handicap International works on all fronts to provide an appropriate response in support of the Malian people in both the north and south of the country. Its teams are supporting the victims of the recent conflict and continue to champion people with disabilities’ right to healthcare and dignity.
Since the summer of 2012, the organisation has mobilised additional teams in response to the humanitarian emergency in the north of the country. Handicap International’s demining experts have been working to clear explosive remnants of war, which posed a threat to the general population, including in schools.
Today, the organisation is continuing to support victims, strengthen the provision of healthcare services in the Timbuktu region and campaigning against food insecurity and malnutrition in young children. Handicap International also supports women’s groups engaged in peace and reconciliation initiatives.
At the same time, our teams remain involved in the campaign to end discrimination against people with disabilities and enable them to access education, healthcare and employment. Finally, Handicap International provides medical personnel with training on the early detection of disability. By improving the care of these young children, it is possible to prevent or minimise the development of the disability and enable them to lead a fulfilling life.
Since 2016, Handicap International leads a project to prevent developmental delays and disabilities among children affected by malnutrition, using physiotherapy and physical and emotional stimulation (through parent-child interaction and educational games). A targeted 9,000 Malian children will have received specific care in the coming two years.
The second largest country in West Africa after Niger, Mali is also one of the world’ poorest nations. In recent years, it has endured droughts, political crises and armed conflict, resulting in wide-scale population displacement and a weakening of state institutions.
In January 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) occupied part of northern Mali. A number of Islamist movements also made gains in this region. Two months later, the president was overthrown. The country then descended into an armed conflict which led to intervention by the Malian and French armed forces in January 2013.
Fighting and the presence of armed groups led to a proliferation of light weapons and the threat of explosive remnants of war in areas where civilian populations are located. In 2012, more than half the civilian casualties of explosive remnants of war in Mali were children.
Some 350,000 people took refuge in neighbouring countries. More than 280,000 Malians fled to the south and centre of the country, where host communities were themselves suffering the impact of the terrible food crisis in 2011.
Today, the humanitarian situation remains precarious. The country’s institutions have been severely affected (healthcare, education, public administration etc.) and the refugees and displaced persons are returning home against a backdrop of particularly difficult conditions.
The country is hampered by extreme poverty. It is ranked 179th out of 188 on the Human Development Index. Political instability and the 2012 conflict have further compounded the situation. Mali’s efforts to achieve universal primary education, HIV/AIDS control and access to drinking water, have been seriously impeded.
Among the general population, people with disabilities are seen as an excluded group and are often the victims of discrimination or prejudice. They represent the country’s largest minority. They have no or very little access to healthcare, education, social services and employment. Only a tiny proportion of children with disabilities attend school. Moreover, in these times of crisis, these already very disadvantaged people often find themselves in increasingly vulnerable situations.
 UNDP: 2014 Human Development Report