Two international nongovernmental organizations founded by Japanese women have been making steady efforts to support mothers and children in Mali, a nation that has suffered civil war since the spring.
About 450,000 people have fled their homes in northern Mali, where there has been a fundamental breakdown in law and order.
The NGOs are calling for donations from Japanese citizens, in order that they may sustain their charitable work in the country. Amid deteriorating conditions in the country of 13 million people, more support is needed. The local office of NGO Motherland Academy International has asked for 100 tons of rice, but the Tokyo headquarters has been able to collect only six tons.
"We are still short of rice, even after purchasing rice in Mali itself using donated money," said Fumiko Murakami, 74, who heads the Tokyo-based NGO. "We want as many people as possible to cooperate, either by making donations or by sending materials."
Mali has long suffered severe food shortages, and various private Japanese organizations have been involved there since the 1980s.
Two groups originally established by Japanese women are still active, including Motherland Academy International, which has been supporting people in Mali since 1984.
Motherland Academy International began in 1982, set up by five women whose children had been bullied at school.
Their founding philosophy: "In order to get rid of bullying, let us start by building a society that values human life."
The NGO's work involves sending food aid and other supplies to children in deprived parts of Asia and Africa.
To Mali, it has been sending second-hand school supplies and clothing, and rice harvested by Japanese schools from their private rice fields. It works in Mali in conjunction with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The NGO has some staff members based in the country, and through them runs programs to plant trees and dig wells.
Active since 1992, fellow Tokyo-based aid group CARA helps women help themselves in rural areas in West Africa.
CARA's roots date back to 1989, when Kazue Murakami, a dentist, visited Mali as a volunteer with another organization. Now 72, Murakami is head of CARA.
The group has dug wells in farming villages in southern Mali, taught women how to grow vegetables, trained medical staff and tackled literacy.
But due to recent political unrest, travel to Mali has become difficult for Japanese staff.
Murakami said that maintaining activities among local people requires stable funding.
"We want the Japanese people to understand the difficult situation in Mali and to help," she said.
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