Zakat Foundation of America’s (ZF) Executive Director, Halil Demir visited Mali at the end of September to attend the inauguration of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and explore the ways ZF can help provide services during the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the result of heavy floods in August, an 18-month civil conflict that began in January 2012, and the profound poverty of most of the Malian people.
After witnessing the country’s many challenges, ZF has renewed its commitment to provide humanitarian aid for the Malian people by working with hospitals and United Nations agencies such as UNESCO and UNICEF. Some of the new initiatives ZF will coordinate in Mali include opening a vocational school in collaboration with UNESCO, replacing and providing new medical equipment in five hospitals in Bamako and other cities, working with the government child welfare agency to provide services and care for orphans, and distributing Udhiya in at least 10 different locations.
Many ZF efforts will revolve around healthcare initiatives to address the most immediate needs. Mr.Demir found that many people do not have the means to purchase medicines, even for the most common illnesses.
“When we were at the refugee camp, we collected prescriptions to purchase medicine and found that the prescriptions were written days or weeks before, but the people did not have money to buy them,” Mr.Demir said.
Because many struggle to obtain the most basic medical care, ZF will focus on providing medicines and medical equipment. “After we distributed the medicines,” Mr. Demir recalled, “I remember a woman who looked at us smiling, while crying from joy. She told us that she has been waiting for so long and has so much pain. She almost gave up hope that she would get any medicine, but she looked at us and said, ‘but we have to always believe, praise God, God will send someone.’”
In addition to the dire poverty he encountered, the aftermath of the floods that ravaged Bamako in August left an unforgettable impression on Mr. Demir.
“I was told a story of one woman, a mother of four, whose house became full of water. Instead of getting out of her house, she tried to close the door, so she could save herself. However, the water was so high that she was going to drown. Her neighbors tried to rescue her and the children with a rope. When it was her turn to get out, instead of grabbing the rope, since it was dark and rainy, she wrongly grabbed an electrical wire and was instantly killed.”
Her children were left motherless and now depend on the community to help them survive. Local people told countless more stories of heartbreaking loss.
The sewer system in Bamako, the capital of Mali, was unable to filter the large amounts of water from the heavy rains, creating backlogs of garbage and debris in various communities. Weeks later, the areas had still not been cleaned, creating health hazards for the local people.
“One of the most heartbreaking experiences in Mali was seeing kids play near a drainage that was full of disease and sickness, knowing that there was nothing preventative in place,” Mr.Demir said.
“We talked to many individuals and it was like they considered themselves forgotten because nobody came to help them.”
Your generous support of humanitarian aid and Udhiya distribution in Mali will bring help and comfort to these brothers and sisters, showing them, and their babies and children, that they are not truly forgotten. We are here to help.