Water Related Illnesses in Mali

Growing Blue

The lack of access to water resources adversely affects sanitation

Countries with limited access to clean water and sanitation suffer from higher rates of water-borne illnesses and higher child mortality. A prime example of this is Mali, a landlocked West African country that is located more than 600 miles from the nearest ocean. More than half of the country is located in the Saharan Desert, but it does contain two major water resources in the region: the Niger River and the Senegal River. However, these resources are geographically dispersed and, due to poor management practices, are not always available. In fact, according to the United Nations, the country only uses 0.2 percent of its potential water resources.

The situation in Mali illustrates how poor sanitation is a prime determinant of disease. The percentage of Mali’s population without proper access to sanitation is 68 percent, or 8.6 million people.

Lacking sanitation, humans directly pollute the water resources and by extension, the water cycle. Indeed, toilets, washing facilities, garbage removal, wastewater disposal, stormwater drainage: sanitation services such as these are a prerequisite for clean, healthy household and community living environments, particularly in dense settlements. The result of this sanitation problem is that water-related diseases, including cholera, diarrhea and guinea worm disease, account for more than 80 percent of all illnesses in Mali, and are especially common for very young children.

The government has taken steps in recent years to improve access to clean water and sanitation, including decentralizing administrative bodies and empowering local communal councils to share water management and infrastructure responsibilities. These steps are laudable but more must be done to safeguard and make available the resources directly affecting the health of Mali’s population.

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