Sightsavers in Mali

We work with governments and local organisations in Mali and countries across Africa to deliver vital charity work and make sure everyone has the chance to thrive.

Mali, in the Sahel region of West Africa, is among the world’s poorest countries.

In recent decades it has been hit hard by environmental disasters, political instability and armed conflict. Yet the government of Mali is working to roll out universal health coverage and improve health services, particularly in rural areas where poverty rates are highest. Mali’s health care system is boosted by foreign aid, with significant investment in eye care.

In May 2023, Mali announced that it had eliminated trachoma, supported by Sightsavers and partners. Despite this achievement, other neglected tropical diseases are still prevalent in the country and the focus is now on tackling river blindness and lymphatic filariasis.

Many people with disabilities in Mali face barriers and discrimination in society. Yet progress is being made: in 2008, Mali ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2018, the National Assembly of Mali unanimously adopted a law on the rights of people with disabilities, and its implementing decree was signed by President of the Transition and Head of State Assimi Goita in 2021.

Facts about Mali

  • Population: 22 million
  • Capital: Bamako
  • Official language: All 13 national languages, with French as the working language
  • Human development index (HDI) ranking: 186 (low)
A white and yellow icon representing an eye with cataracts. The pupil and iris are covered with dashed yellow lines.

170,000 people in Mali are thought to be blind

There are only 2 ophthalmologists for every one million people

About 3 million people in Mali have a disability

Sources: IAPB, WHO

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Four men sit on the back of a white truck with a Sightsavers logo on the door. They're driving through a dusty road in Mali, with trees on either side.

What are the challenges in Mali, and how can these be addressed?

Four men sit on the back of a white truck with a Sightsavers logo on the door. They're driving through a dusty road in Mali, with trees on either side.

Eye care

People in rural areas struggle to access quality eye care.

Mali’s eye care services are affected by a lack of investment and resources in the general health care system. Sightsavers’ charity work focuses on reducing blindness in the Koulikoro region, in the south-west of the country.

Maichata, who has a visual impairment, wears glasses and a surgical mask while sitting at her school desk.

How we're making a difference in Mali

Free eye screening

Regular screening can check people for eye conditions that can cause visual impairment and sight loss, and refer them for treatment where needed.
Eye conditions we treat

Training staff

Recruiting and training eye care workers helps to fill staffing gaps in the national eye care service, ensuring people can be treated more quickly.
A guide to eye health roles

Cataract surgery

Cataracts can cause blindness, but a simple operation can restore sight. We provide operations for children and adults with the condition.
Learn about cataracts

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Infectious diseases

People in Mali are at a high risk of infectious diseases.

Neglected tropical diseases that can cause blindness and disability are prevalent in Mali. Sightsavers’ work in the country has already helped to eliminate trachoma, and now we focus on protecting people from river blindness, schistosomiasis, intestinal worms and lymphatic filariasis.

A health worker wearing a surgical mask takes a blood sample from a patient.

How we’re tackling disease in Mali

Distributing medication

Sightsavers distributes medication in urban and rural areas of Mali to treat and protect communities from infectious diseases.
About our treatment campaigns

Training volunteers

We train local volunteers to distribute medication in their communities, check people for eye disease and refer them for treatment where needed.
Who are community volunteers?


Collecting data about the prevalence of diseases helps us plan mass drug administration campaigns and target the areas most in need.
About our in-house research team

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Inclusion and equality

Not everyone can claim their human rights.

People with disabilities and women and girls face stigma and discrimination in society. Our charity work on disability rights in Mali focuses on improving everyone’s access to health care, education and employment.

A school student raises her hand in class. She's wearing a mask and has an assistive lectern in front of her.

Our inclusion work in Mali

Inclusive education

Sightsavers works with local governments to make schools more inclusive for students with disabilities.
How we adapted braille into Mali’s local language

Working in partnership

We work with the government and partners like Malian Union of the Blind to pool our expertise and promote inclusion in Malian society.
About partnering with Sightsavers

Political advocacy

Sightsavers and the Federation of People with Disabilities of Mali called on the government to protect the rights of people with disabilities in law.
How we helped to pass a new law

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Wearing a surgical mask, Noutene reads braille at an inclusive school in Mali.

“It was a bit difficult to learn before I had glasses. The school gave me glasses, which has helped me a lot.”

Wearing a surgical mask, Noutene reads braille at an inclusive school in Mali.
Noutene, from Hamdallaye, attends an inclusive school where she’s learning through braille

How you can help

Our charity work in Mali has already helped to eliminate trachoma, but there’s still more we need to do.

With your support, we want to continue providing quality eye care services, protect people from disease and create a ripple effect in Mali, so everyone can learn, earn and thrive. To do this, we need your help.

Charity donations, legacies, corporate partnerships and gifts from charitable foundations are a vital source of funding for our programmes in Mali. We also welcome opportunities to work in partnership with governments, institutions and development organisations.

Contact us: If you have any questions about our work in Mali, would like more information about our programmes or wish to discuss ways you can donate or support us, email [email protected]

Latest stories from Mali

An eye health worker checks a man's eyes for signs of trachoma.
Sightsavers blog

How Mali overcame three big challenges and eliminated trachoma

Sightsavers’ Boubacar Morou Dicko shares the obstacles Mali faced on the road to eliminating trachoma, and how the country was able to overcome them.

A man smiles at the camera.

Benin and Mali become the latest countries to eliminate trachoma

Both countries’ achievements have been validated by the World Health Organization, meaning they join a growing list of countries to have banished the disease.

May 2023
Four men sit on the back of a white truck with a Sightsavers logo on the door. They're driving through a dusty road in Mali, with trees on either side.
Sightsavers from the field

The last mile: paving the way to eliminating river blindness in Mali

Since 1991, Sightsavers been helping Mali’s ministry of health to treat and prevent this blinding disease. Now the country is on track to banish it for good.

June 2022
Five people, including the President of the Association des People of Small Size and the President of the Malian Union of the Blind, smile at the camera.
Sightsavers blog

The last five years: Mali’s journey to protect the rights of people with disabilities

The signing and passing into law of a new social decree that protects the rights of people with disabilities was years in the making. But how did we get to this historic moment?

Daouda Kone, October 2021
A young girl raising her hand in a classroom.
Sightsavers from the field

How inclusive education is transforming lives

In Mali, a Sightsavers project is ensuring children with disabilities are able to learn alongside their peers. Students, teachers and parents describe how the project has made a difference.

May 2021
Two girls with visual impairments in a school.
Sightsavers from the field

How Sightsavers has helped to adapt braille into Mali’s local language

As part of Sightsavers' inclusive education project, which supports children with visual impairments across Mali, we’ve worked with linguistic expert Dr Issiaka Ballo to translate braille into the local language for the first time.

December 2020

Discover where Sightsavers works in Africa and Asia

Where we work