Mali is one of the 25 poorest countries in the world.
It has a population of 15.5 million of which only 1.3 million live in the north.
Its economy relies on foreign aid despite being among the world’s top gold producing countries.
Supplies of bauxite (for aluminium) and uranium have also recently been confirmed.
The country is made up of 90 percent Muslim, 9 percent people who hold indigenous beliefs and 1 percent Christian.
The official language is French, though more than 80 percent of the population speak Bambara.
More than 40 other languages are spoken.
Healthcare in Mali is poor. Last year it had the third highest infant mortality rate in the world.
There is only one doctor for every 20,000 people. In Britain there are 54.
The risk of contracting major diseases is classed as “very high”.