Africa: Part 1, 2 & 3
Visit to Mali
I visited Mali three times. During the first visit I spent time in Bamako, Sikasso and several other villages including Dogoni, Kiadola, Zegoua and Sirakoro. Our objective was to:
- Observe actual living conditions, levels of education, availability of healthcare and the availability of electricity and communications infrastructure.
- Speak at length with community members to understand their views and priorities in respect to poverty reduction in their communities.
The discussions with people in the villages revealed several consistent elements and lead to the following conclusions:
- The most immediate hardship caused by poverty was the lack of healthcare. Most villages had a health center and a nurse, however, the nurse had little or no training and the health center had no drugs whatsoever. People who suffered minor injury or illness were unable to receive treatment and therefore even minor injuries and illnesses risk escalating into significantly more serious health problems. This situation also resulted in an ability to contribute to the family’s daily activities and, in many cases, made them a burden on the rest of the family.
- The current situation would not change in the long term unless all people within the village, particularly children, receive various levels of relevant education. Literacy rates are very low therefore basic literacy and mathematics should form the basis for learning and should be supplemented with “life management” education including improving agricultural practices, food storage, water management, sanitation and the establishment of income generation opportunities.
- The absence of electricity, running water and any form of communication severely constrained the village’s ability to break the poverty cycle.
Development of the ADP
The ADP (accelerated development program) was developed in order to:
- Address the most critical elements that contribute to and perpetuate poverty in the short term.
- Establish a platform for long term sustainable (and accelerated) development for the community.
- Create a program containing components that will be carefully monitored and further developed into a program that will be replicated on a large scale.
- As a result, the ADP has been developed to address these issues in combination while also maintaining a budget constraint in order to ensure that large scale replication is not cost-prohibitive.
The target villages usually have a nurse that is able to assist with childbirth, however, the nurse has limited training, no access to running water and no drugs.
The high mortality rate for children under the age of five is of particular concern. Statistics published by the UN in its annual Human Development Index (“HDI”) report indicate that the mortality rate for children in Mali under the age of five is approximately one in five.
Our onsite investigation indicates that malaria, childbirth complications, and diarrhea appear to be the main causes of death. During pregnancy, malaria affects the health of both the infant and the mother, resulting in maternal anemia and low birth weight.
The lack of drugs and basic training for the nurse means the nurse is often unable to treat simple injuries that occur in the field. These simple injuries prevent people from assisting their families with their daily activities and may deteriorate into more serious illnesses.
- Training for a nurse.
- Drugs for malaria and diarrhea.
- Supply basic drugs (sufficient to provide a minimum “first aid” level of medical assistance).
- Supply basic diagnosis instruments (blood pressure, stethoscope, etc).
- Access to online assistance (only where a communications component is included in ADP).
The members of the target villages are not able to make crucial life management decisions due to a total lack of education. The UN HDI states that the literacy rate for Mali is approximately 40% and our own investigation indicates that this number is lower in the target villages. There is also a total lack of any adult education. Education is required for adults to allow them to:
- Improve the skills required to enhance agricultural output and pursue other income-generating opportunities.
- Make decisions regarding the health of their families (eg food storage, water management, sanitation and understanding sexually transmitted diseases).
- Facilitate cultural progression by promoting gender equality and the use of modern medicine.
- Provide a trained primary school teacher who will focus on teaching literacy and basic mathematics.
- Provide agricultural teaching manuals for adults along with basic training regarding water management, sanitation, food storage, and sexually transmitted disease.
Target villages do not currently have any electricity. The lack of light alone means that numerous tasks need to be completed by sunset each day. Adding enough electricity to enable minimal lighting will allow:
- Adults to work during the day and study at night.
- Nurses can attend to injured or ill people at night if required.
- People spread their daily activities over a longer period of time.
Solar electricity system that will provide sufficient electricity to power lighting in the community center and limited use of a computer. Micro solar electricity systems to be installed into selected individual households to providing low-level lighting.
Target villages have no communications capability. Some of the consequence are:
- Generally no flow of critical information from central government or major regional cities (eg changes in government policies, warn against new diseases, etc).
- No ability to communicate important events (eg elections, inflow of refugees from nearby conflict, etc).
- No understanding of prices in markets for agricultural products.
- No understanding of any change in political or military status in their region.
Provide a two-way satellite communications system to be installed in the vicinity of the community center. The systems will allow for both telephonic communications as well as access to the Internet. Access to the Internet will enable the following:
- Information regarding weather, commodity prices, and other agricultural information may be produced remotely and distributed to all villages with Community centers.
- Nurses will have access to medical information from dedicated websites to assist with diagnosis and treatment decisions.
- Educational curricula can be created and delivered online and adjusted when and where required to ensure that the curriculum always addresses the specific issues that are most relevant to the community. Curricula may be printed on paper and distributed to students thereby avoiding the procurement and delivery of expensive textbooks.
- More advanced students and other members of the community will have access to the unlimited information available from the world wide web.