Malnutrition and Mali: Food, Education, Global Health

Last semester, I put together a project proposal for development in EL Salvador, but I believe the same project can have a positive effect on health in Mali and the world. Mali is a country that is crippled by food insecurity and nutritional deficiency, as well as stark educational inequality. Only 68% of girls attend secondary school, while 88% of boys do. Since public education in Mali is technically free until age 16, there should be a lesser gender gap but there are often expenses, such as uniforms, fees, school supplies, etc. and this often dissuades lower income families from sending their children, particularly female children, to school.

Empowering female members of a community through education has a positive impact on the whole community. However, without food and economic stability it is difficult to make school a priority.

I have formulated a system to outfit school buildings with the human resources and tailored educational assets they need to flourish. I hope to partner with Teachers Without Borders, local food banks found through Ecova Mali, World Food Programme and The Global Food Banking Network to implement a system that keeps schools open and functioning, while providing two meals a day during the school week to each student who attends. Each teacher will be trained and will be able to deal with issues like student hunger, family income, and volatile households. Ideally, the school building will act as a safe place for students to learn on a full belly without chronic stressors. We also hope to encourage teachers to work within a particular community for several years, gaining trust and insight into the particularisms. We will ask the local people what problems they address in getting an education and hopefully implement their suggestions as much as possible.

We will find our teachers through Teachers Without Borders, working with them so they know the qualifications we are looking for. These teachers should have a strong background in community service, have a teaching degree, and have at least 6 months’ experience teaching in a middle school setting (this is a qualification for receiving a teaching degree in many programs).

The World Food Programme at this point has not begun to set up food banks as they have done in other countries. They are still trying to work on a poverty reduction schematic with the government. They have also conducted several regional studies and have made it easy to share information on different initiatives throughout the area. I hope to work with them to maximize the impact of the food initiative and use their example in other countries to set up an effective food bank strategy.The World Food Programme has also helped the government of Mali protect their own initiatives and promoted food production and interventions, such as relief work from the government during times of crisis.

My proposed budget includes teacher salaries, anthropologist salaries, school supplies for the children, outfitting of a school building, and the cost of feeding children through a food bank. As I go through each proposed number, I will describe how and why I have decided on these numbers. All numbers are given in USD.

I propose to hire three teachers through Teachers Without Borders. During the program, they would be expected to teach around 40 children, help in the preparation of meals, and organize program-wide events once a week. I would like to pay the teachers $20,000 a year. This will provide great experience for the teachers, allow them to really connect with the community, provide stability to the children, and have them participate in cultural immersion. Upon completion of the five-year program, each teacher would receive a $5,000 bonus. The total cost for this part of the project is $315K.

One anthropologist will be assigned to the project. They would be in charge of community feedback, data collection, administrative duties, preparation of the food, and documenting the process in order to account for whatever reorientation the program might need during and after the initial five-year period. I propose their salary to be $10,000 a year, amounting to a total of $50K over the program. This is far above the local family income, so living expenses should be taken care of within this wage.

I am proposing $85 per child per year for school supplies. In total for the program, this would cost $42,500 over the program. I looked up the cost of wholesale school supplies on Blu School Supplies. For a basic kit (17” backpack, 2 highlighters, 8 pack of pens, pencil case, eraser, 6 pencils) it costs about $7 per unit. For four composition notebooks per student, that would cost about $5 per unit. Calculators cost $2.50 per unit. Rulers are $1.50 per unit. Art supplies (crayons, sketch pad, and poster board) would come to $3 per unit.  The remaining $68 will help assist with public school uniforms and books.

To outfit the school with chalkboards, seats, desks, pots for food preparation, etc. I am recommending $5k in total. I do not want to put the financial stress of creating a learning environment on the teachers.

To fund the costs of the food assistance program, I used River Bend Food Bank for numbers to work with. While I will be working closely with the Global Food Banking Network, I would like to include the cost of feeding all the children in my budget so that I can assist in funding a new program that mimic’s the Kids’ Café program here in the United States. According to the River Bend Food Bank, $150 provides one child’s meals for a school year. Upon further research, I learned that this covers approximately 4 meals a week. I am looking to provide each student two meals a day, five days a week. So with this in mind, I calculated the cost per child for this program. For 100 children this new food assistance program would cost $37,500 annually, which is $187,500 over the five-year program.

In total, my proposed development project would cost $600K in its entirety.

While my original project in El Salvador could improve gang violence, community health, and development-focused research, I am confident that two major factors of global heath problems are undernourishment and lack of education. By tweaking the project to fit a far more undernourished country I hope to demonstarte that educational framework and food assistance are pivotal to ending global health burdens and poverty. However, I would like to avoid a top-down structure to this project, therefore local community members will be able give feedback and see results that reflect what they need throughout the program, as there are differences I cannot account for at this stage.