Mali’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic


Already plagued by insecurity arising from terrorist attacks since 2012, Mali has been further destabilized by the COVID-19 health crisis. Since March 25, 2020 when the first two cases (two Malians who returned from France in mid-March) of the coronavirus were confirmed, the numbers have continued to rise steadily.

As of May 16, 2020, there were 806 confirmed cases with 46 deaths and 455 recoveries.

Government’s strategic responses to the pandemic
Even before the appearance of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Mali, the government constituted a Defence Council presided over by the President to respond to the threat of the pandemic. On March 11, 2020, the country was put on high alert through the announcement of a number of measures of restriction listed below. Once the first two cases were recorded, the measures were reinforced with a curfew from 9pm to 5am on March 26, 2020 and the closure of all educational institutions. Measures were also announced to mitigate the impact of the restrictions on the economy and livelihoods.

 Measures of Restriction

1. All travelers who presented themselves in Mali would receive at the points of entry (air and land) a systematic temperature measurement, as well as the recommendations of the government relating to: (i) common barrier measures (hand-washing with water and soap, use of hydro-alcoholic gel, respect for social distance of 1 meter; wearing of masks; (ii) self-isolation measures; (iii) the provision of a toll-free number (36061) to the population for all practical purposes.

2. Travellers arriving from countries severely affected by COVID-19 with a symptom of fever (temperature above 37.5-degree Celsius) but no sign of respiratory difficulty will be directed into self-isolation for 14 days, and will be subject to daily monitoring by a medical team.

3. Travelers from countries severely affected by Covid-19 with major symptoms such as fever (temperature above 37.5-degree Celsius) and signs of respiratory difficulty will be admitted to one of the isolation sites, created for this purpose, to be tested and if necessary, treated.

4. Reduction to a maximum of 50 persons for public and social gatherings and respect for social distance during social events such as baptisms, funerals, weddings, etc.

5. Suspension of the participation of Malian government officials in big meetings or fora in highly affected countries.

6. Suspension of the holding of major gatherings in Mali (Conferences, symposia, festivals, etc.) until further notice.

7. Reinforcement of individual and collective hygiene measures (hand washing with soap, use of hydro-alcoholic gel in front of all public services, private sector companies and places of worship).

8. Prohibition of handshaking and embraces in all places and circumstances and disinfection of the big market of Bamako and bus stations to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.

9. With regard to patient care, people tested positive with COVID-19 would be taken care of in the sites selected by the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs.

10. Given the presence of a large number of foreign forces, close coordination is essential with embassies, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Operation Barkhane, the European Union Training Mission, and International Organizations, for prevention and case management.

 Socioeconomic measures

In his third message to the nation on the COVID-19 on April 10, 2020, the President of Mali announced a number of socio-economic measures, including:
  Endowment of a budget of 500 billion FCFA (approx. USD 825 million) as a fund to support the national economy and the most vulnerable households.

  The most vulnerable households would benefit from a special fund of 100 billion FCFA (USD 165 million) and a distribution of 56 thousand tonnes of cereals.

  Support for water and electricity bills for two months (April and May 2020) for those belonging to the most deprived social groups.

  Importers will benefit from a reduction in customs duties on basic necessities.

  regarding the slowdown in economic activity and the resulting shortfall, particularly in the private sector, 20 billion CFA francs (USD 33 million) would be mobilised through the banks to support them.

Members of the government committed to forfeit their salaries as contribution to the national funds to combat the COVID-19 - 3 months for the President, 2 months for the Prime Minister and 1 month for Ministers.

It is to be noted that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved the disbursement of 120 billion FCFA (approx. USD198 million) in favour of Mali under the rapid credit facility to help the country meet urgent funding needs resulting from the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. This disbursement was to help support urgent health spending and the announced support to affected businesses and households.

Within the framework of bilateral cooperation between Mali and the United Arab Emirates, the Malian Government received on May 10, 2020, a large batch of sanitary materials as solidarity support in the fight against COVID-19. Estimated at around 10 tonnes of sanitary equipment, this Emirati donation consists of 300,000 gloves, 32,000 shoe covers, 20,000 surgical masks, 6000 hydrogels, 3, 600 wipes, and 5,000 test kits for the COVID-19.

Trade union actions

The unions have been very active in conducting awareness campaigns among their members to secure compliance with hygienic and preventive measures taken by the authorities against the disease. They can strengthen this work of awareness raising and link it with the campaign for improved public health by reaching out to artists, youth organizations and NGOs who have also been active in the fight against COVID-19.

The four (4) national trade union centers in Mali, National Union of Workers of Mali (UNTM), Trade Union Confederation of Workers of Mali (CSTM), Democratic Union of Workers of Mali (CDTM) and Malian Confederation of Labour (CMT) have been represented in a special tripartite commission set up by the Ministry of Social Dialogue, Labour and the Public Service within the framework of the national response against COVID-19. This commission, created on April 23, 2020, was responsible in particular for: (i) Collecting and analysing information on the situation of the sectors of activity particularly impacted by corona virus epidemic; (ii) Collect and analyze statistical data on the employment situation (number of employees placed on technical unemployment by activity sector, dismissals for economic reasons operated, etc.); (iii) Evaluate the effectiveness of the measures following the pandemic on working conditions and the operation of businesses; (iv) Ensure operational monitoring for the day-to-day management of alerts from companies or workers’ unions; (v) Propose prevention and management measures to the Government, employers and workers (legislative and regulatory reforms, social measures, and other support intended to limit the consequences of the epidemic, and / or facilitate the resumption of the economic activity) ; (vi) Make a regular report of its work to the Minister in charge of Labour and the Public Service.

The establishment of this commission is an opportunity for the Malian unions to measure the impact of the pandemic on workers and the world of work in order to make their contributions to the well-being of workers as well as to recovery efforts after the pandemic.

The slowdown in economic activity occasioned by the crisis of COVID-19 crisis has led to the suspension of employment contracts and technical layoffs in a number of companies, especially private ones. This is an important matter that the unions are expected to raise so that greater effort can be made to provide support to the workers whose livelihoods are threatened.


On May 8, 2020, the government lifted the curfew that was imposed on the country at the beginning of the crisis. Schools are scheduled to reopen on June 02, 2020. This is indication that the heavy restrictions that were initially instituted to contain the virus and prevent its rapid spread are being eased. What is not clear, however, is the new normal that Mali or any African country can assume, particularly with the continuing presence of the coronavirus within national borders and the absence of a certified cure or vaccine for the COVID-19.

What seems evident is that governments and populations are gearing up to carry on with economic activities and livelihoods alongside fighting the coronavirus. This new situation demands greater resilience, innovation and purposiveness from all, including trade unions, if we are to weather it successfully. Our unions must see greater value in uniting their efforts to allow them to give greater voice and better representation to workers in order to secure their jobs, their safety and their social protection during this period of crisis.

Furthermore, unions also need to unite their efforts to ensure that they can develop common positions and plans that can feed into the national efforts at recovery and the sustainable development out of the crisis. Trade unions are challenged to reinvent themselves to remain relevant for securing workers rights and interests going forward.

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