Known to be one of the poorest countries in the world, Malawi relies heavily on international aid, as well as support from financial institutions. They are a country which suffers from climate change, as well as a lack of resources to provide economic opportunities towards their population. As part of the IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRFG) program, the aim is to continue with their economic agenda; emphasizing transparency and robust policymaking. Landlocked in Sub-Saharan Africa, they have been recipients of numerous international aid packages. The most recent case of humanitarian aid to Malawi came in 2016 and 2017 when a drought resulted in the direct aid to some 6.7 million people – 40 percent of the population.
When it comes to the word “drone,” negative connotations are usually affiliated with the term due to the influence of agencies such as the media and stories that relate to wars and violence. However, the creation of a revitalized air corridor in recent months by the United Nation’s UNICEF has the potential of distorting the misconceptions and revitalizing the way humanitarianism works. Africa could well have their hands on the first humanitarian drone to access remote areas far easier to provide assistance to some of the most vulnerable. The drone focuses on three primary areas:
- Generating and analyzing aerial images for developing areas and assisting during humanitarian crises
- Exploring the possibility of using drones to expand Wi-Fi or cell phone signals
- Transporting medical supplies
According to Malawi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango, these drones will not be used for the first time, as they have been previously used to respond to natural disasters. One of the contingent uses for the drones will be to deliver medical supplies to cater to the 1.2 million people (or a quarter of the population) affected by HIV/AIDs.
The lack of infrastructure impedes the ability for other vehicles to reach rural destinations where people are in need of the right medical testing kit and samples. With the humanitarian drone corridor now being tested, local communities will be able to observe the reduction in waiting time in receiving immediate medical assistance.
Moreover, this project has the potential of rejuvenating the way humanitarian aid to Malawi is operated, with many companies eager to test the use of this new air corridor. Apparently, 12 companies have already jumpstarted to apply and test this new device since its announcement at the end of 2016.
Over the last decade, Malawi has been in constant reliance on IMF aid packages, directed towards reforming government social protection programs. Much skepticism has been drawn from their human rights record under their former leader President Bingu wa Mutharika. Under his leadership, international organizations retracted the amount of aid they have administered in the past. According to Country Watch the “number of people facing food shortages in Malawi had increased since 2011 to 1.63 million.” With 65.3 percent of their population living beneath the poverty line, deployment of aid packages in destitute areas will be an effective tool in providing basic humanitarian aid to Malawi.
– Alexandre Dumouza