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Macalester College

Publication Date

Fall 2010

Program Name

Mali: Health, Gender, and Community Empowerment


In the past decade, the world has crossed a threshold that a century ago would have seemed unimaginable: the majority of the global population now lives in cities.A startling pattern of rapid urbanization began in the final decades of the 20th century and continues today at a striking pace. The percentage of the global population residing in urban areas increased from 32 percent in 1955 to 47 percent in 2002, and is expected to reach 65 percent in 2015. This trend is particularly notable in the developing world, where an arrival of rural migrants in search of labor has caused the urban population to explode; between 1970 and 1996, the number of cities in developing countries with a population of greater than one million increased from 83 to 221. The “rural exodus” and resulting urban population boom has created grave problems for infrastructure systems in many cities, which simply cannot support the rapid influx of people. Resulting problems vary, ranging from the struggle to provide adequate education to an increasing number of students, to attempting to provide a management system that can dispose of solid waste generated by the population. The city of Bamako, Mali, is an eloquent exampleof a city struggling with its growing population. The government of Bamako faces grave problemsin its ability to provide both potable water and a waste management system to support its large numbers. As a result, a multitude of local and foreign NGOs have established themselves to make up for the government’s failure to provide basic public services. Despite their efforts, the city is simply too large and expanding too quickly to be supported by these organizations, and severe problems associated with human health have stemmed from the population’s growing numbers. This study is designed to identify these problems, ascertain their causes, and evaluate current public and private efforts in place aimed at improving sanitation and access to water in Sikoro, one of the poorest neighborhoods on the fringes of Bamako.


Demography, Population, and Ecology | Inequality and Stratification | Social Welfare



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