Mali is a landlocked country in western Africa, covered entirely by the Saharan and Sahelian deserts. The total population of Mali is over 21 million and its capital is Bamako.
Periodically flooding rivers provide fertile soil along their banks and create pasture for livestock. But the people of Mali face recurring droughts, persistent poverty and outbursts of violent conflict.
More than half of the population is under the age of 18, these children are among the most disadvantaged in the world and thousands are without parental care.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Mali since 1987.
In spite of some improvement in recent decades, Mali continues to be one of the poorest countries in Africa: 47% of its population lives in poverty. Poverty is particularly persistent in certain rural areas of the country.
The rural inhabitants of the Sahel-Saharan region face precarious living conditions. Many people depend on subsistence farming and are therefore vulnerable to natural disasters.
Access to education remains a challenge for hundreds of thousands of Malians. Although an increasing number of children start school, many drop out by the time they reach secondary level. UNICEF estimates that over 2 million children aged 5 to 17 are out of school nationally. As a result, only around 35% of the population know how to read and write. The literacy rates are higher in urban areas than in rural areas, and higher for men than for women.
Discrimination against girls and women persists in many areas of the country and educational and professional opportunities for women are generally very limited.
An estimated 8 million girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation, the partial or total removal of external female genitalia.
Child marriages and early pregnancies are common: half of all girls are still underaged when they are married.