Mali, a landlocked country in West Africa, is the eighth-largest country in Africa with an area of just over 1,240,000 square kilometres and a population of approximately 14.5 million. Mali consists of eight regions; its borders on the north reach deep into the middle of the Sahara Desert, while the country’s southern part, where the majority of inhabitants live, features the Niger and Senegal rivers. The country’s economy centers on agriculture and fishing.. Approximately 55% of the population identifies as non-denominational Muslims.
In March 2012, the Malian government lost control over regions of Tombouctou, Gao and Kidal and the north-eastern portion of Mopti Region. On 6 April 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad unilaterally declared their secession from Mali as Azawad, an act that neither Mali nor the international community recognised. The government later regained control over these areas but life continued to be difficult for the citizens of Mali; approximately half the population currently lives below the international poverty line of $1.25 (U.S.) a day.