Poverty & Healthcare

Living longer

Life expectancy in Mali is 53 years (2009), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). But this is an improvement from 20 years ago, when the average Malian could expect to live just 43 years.

Unlike other African countries, Mali at least has a low incidence of HIV/AIDS; 1% of the adult population is infected. However, this still means around 76,000 people live with HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS 2009). And an estimated 59,000 children in Mali have lost either one or both parents to the disease.

  • Sanan market
  • Children in rural Mali

Life is precarious

It's a fact...

Only three-fifths of Malians have safe drinking water and little more than a third have proper sanitation.

Malaria is a constant threat in Mali; more than 1.6 million cases were recorded in 2009 (WHO). Outbreaks of meningitis also occur, as well as diseases such as cholera which are linked to poor hygiene.

With over half the population living below the poverty line, malnutrition is common in Mali – more than a quarter of children are underweight. It is therefore not surprising that child and infant mortality rates are high.

For every 1,000 live births, 184 children are likely to die before their fifth birthday (WHO 2009).

Poor healthcare

The capital, Bamako, has two large hospitals and there are hospitals in other main towns and cities. However, the low life expectancy in Mali reflects the generally poor standards of healthcare available in much of the country.

Services across the network of medical centres, dispensaries and mobile clinics suffer from a lack of equipment, medicines and qualified staff.

As of 2009, there were only 729 physicians registered in Mali, which is less than one doctor for every 10,000 people.

Traditional cures

Traditional medicine therefore remains popular in Mali, with herbal remedies sold in local marketplaces.

Some of these natural remedies have long proved effective for treating certain illnesses. This is why Mali’s main hospitals have departments carrying out research into traditional cures.