How Malians are eating 3 meals a day

When COVID-19 hit Mali, most of the families that CARE works with that had been eating three meals a day suddenly found themselves eating only once a day. Markets closing, quarantine measures, and falling incomes meant that people had to conserve food carefully. Six months later, most of those families are eating three meals a day again. Why? Because local communities mobilized to share information, and worked with CARE to distribute cash transfers to the families most in need.

CARE worked with local non-profit organizations YAGTU, SAHEL ECO and local health centers to reach the most people as quickly as possible.

What changed?

  • People now have more food: People are three times more likely to have enough food, and three times more likely to be eating three meals a day—nearly back to the levels they had before COVID-19.
  • People feel more dignified: 73% of people in the project said that their dignity was improved.
  • More people are washing their hands and using clean water: 13% more people have clean drinking water, and they are 3 times more likely to have handwashing equipment at home.
  • Conflicts and violence are going down: 58% of women and girls say that gender-based violence is decreasing. The number of people who report witnessing physical violence has been cut in half. People also report that they are 75% less likely to have arguments over water.
  • People have more constructive ways to cope: People are nearly three times (2.8 times, actually) more likely to cope without having to put their futures at risk. For example, they are 29% less likely to take out loans, and less likely to skip meals.
  • People have more access to information: People are 18% more likely to know how to protect themselves from COVID-19. They are also 3 times more likely to know about gender-based violence and how to prevent it, and 43% more likely to know about contraception.

How did it happen?

  • Use cash and vouchers: The project set up cash transfers for families using mobile phones and mobile money. They also set up vouchers for specific products families needed. 61% of people were satisfied with cash transfers.
  • Listen to what communities want: The teams set up multiple ways for individuals to give feedback—through community complaint desks, hotlines, working with local groups like Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs), and through health centers—so that they could stay in touch with what worked and what didn’t. It’s not enough to collect feedback, we also have to respond to it. 76% of people said they got satisfactory responses to their issues.
  • Think about how people get information: The project supported savings groups to share information, which meant 21% of people were getting their information about COVID-19 and the assistance program through their local group. Community committees and savings groups also set up community meetings on the importance of addressing gender-based violence.
  • Support digital access: For families who didn’t have any access to mobile phones, the project gave them a mobile phone so they could access cash transfers and information. In some places, that means families were 30% more likely to have access to phones.
  • Use in-kind distribution when appropriate: The project worked with health centers to distribute hygiene kits. They also helped rebuild water points so everyone could get enough water to wash their hands regularly.