First Malaria Vaccine
Malaria is a parasitic virus transmitted through mosquito bites, and those infected with the disease often experience grave fevers, chills and flu-like symptoms. Although malaria can potentially end in death, physical precautions such as safety nets in malaria-dense environments and prompt treatment can usually prevent it. Unfortunately, because malaria largely affects poorer nations, it can be a great strain on national economies and impoverished populations. The World Health Organization is enlisting pilot testing for the first malaria vaccine.

The Problem

Malaria reportedly infects tens of millions, killing over 400,000 people worldwide every year and mostly children; Sub-Saharan African countries are the primary nations in which malaria thrives—the World Health Organization estimates that over 250,000 African children die every year from the virus.

The malaria-carrying parasite is able to evade victims’ immune systems by constantly changing its surface, which is why developing a vaccine against the virus has been so difficult. With today’s modern technology and scientific insight, that is beginning to change.

Testing the First Malaria Vaccine

In April of 2019, a large-scale pilot test of what many are dubbing the world’s first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children began in Malawi. Scientists from the drug company GSK first created the RTS,S vaccine in 1987 and has been refining it ever since. Organizations like Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative have been instrumental in supporting this initiative.

The new RTS,S vaccine is attempting to teach the immune system how to attack the malaria parasite. A patient needs to receive the vaccine four times—once a month for three months, followed by a fourth and final dose 18 months later. In 2009, Kenya held smaller trials of the vaccine and concluded with a 40 percent protection rate of the five to-17 month-olds who received the vaccination. Since then, malaria rates have plateaued rather than decreased, which is another reason the new pilot test is so vital in the modern-day.

Now testing is taking place in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana with aims to immunize 120,000 children aged two-years-old and younger. These three countries are ideal for two reasons: one, these nations already have large anti-malaria programs in place; and two, in spite of this, they still have high numbers of malaria cases. As Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa) stated, “Malaria is a constant threat to the African communities where this vaccine will be given” and explains that the vaccine is needed because “we know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and [hope to] reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.”

Looking Towards the Future

The purpose of the pilot tests is to build up evidence that can be reliably considered while WHO policy is debating its recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S vaccine. The experiment will examine the reductions (if any) in child deaths, vaccine uptake rates (including how many children receive all four vaccinations) and the overall safety of the vaccine in routine use.

If the testing goes well, not only will the World Health Organization aid the vaccine to its core package of recommended measures for malaria prevention and treatment, but hopefully, it will begin a chain reaction that again sparks a decrease in malaria cases around the world.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Health System in MalawiThe topic of healthcare has become a worldwide focus in recent years. A push toward government-funded health services has indicated a shift towards the mentality that healthcare is a universal human right. Malawi, one of the smaller countries in southeast Africa, has a low gross domestic product, with 51.5 percent of the population living in poverty. With life expectancy at 64.5 years, the health system in Malawi needs improvement.

The Ouagadougou Declaration

In 2008, the Ouagadougou Declaration on Primary Health Care and Health Systems in Africa was adopted by African Region Member states, which includes Malawi. This declaration focused on nine major issues within healthcare: health governance, service delivery, human resources, health financing, health information systems, new technologies, community ownership and participation, partnerships for development and funding for health research. The Ministry of Health in Malawi is responsible for the implementation and the regulation of these health entities.

Health System in Malawi

Currently, Malawi operates a three-tier health system. The first tier is primary healthcare. This sector is in effect to meet the needs of general medical care, which includes community and rural hospitals and maternity units. The second tier consists of district hospitals. These see patients who receive a referral from their primary care physician to receive specialized services. This includes laboratory work and rehabilitation services. The final tier is tertiary care provided by central hospitals. This tier covers extreme conditions that require highly specialized care such as treatment for specific diseases. The linkage for these services comes through an elaborate referral system that trickles down the health system.

Although the 2008 doctrine worked to lay out different measures to ensure the quality of health service delivery in Malawi, major health concerns still persist. HIV/AIDS continues to be the number one cause of death in Malawi: 21.7 percent of deaths in 2012 were linked to HIV/ AIDS. Acute Respiratory Infections account for 8.6 percent of deaths, while Malaria accounts for 40 percent of hospitalized individuals.

Issues With Funding

A large cause of a lack of quality health services in Malawi comes down to funding. Approximately $93 is spent on each person in Malawi annually, which is around 11.4 percent of the overall GDP. The U.S. spends around $10,000 on healthcare per capita annually.

Due to these issues, the focus for healthcare in Malawi has been working on minimizing the burden of disease, increasing cost effectiveness, providing more widespread access to the poor and implementing proven successful health intervention. Implementation has been laid out through new quality assurance policies, improving standards and accreditation, and improving performance management with the Health Strategic Plan, which was created in 2011. While the government in Malawi works to assure quality health services in Malawi, non-profit organizations are working to help provide those health services. A few of these organizations include Care, which has provided 30.2 million people in Malawi with sexual and reproductive health resources, and the Fistula Foundation, which has given over $300,000 of funding for physician training.

Work being done by the Malawian government and non-profit organizations around the world is helping to improve the health system in Malawi.

– Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Erna Solberg
Erna Solberg is a Norwegian politician who was born and raised in Bergen, Norway and has held many different positions of power during her career. Since 2004, she has been the leader of the Conservative Party of Norway (EPP, IDU) and has been Prime Minister of Norway since the General Election in 2013. Norway re-elected her as Prime Minister in September 2017 and she has leveraged her position as the leader of a wealthy and influential country to fight for female education and children’s rights in developing countries. The Prime Minister has a long track record of international educational aid especially for women and children, and these are just three examples of the important strides Ms. Solberg has taken.

Three Initiatives in the Fight for Female Education

1. Starting in 2016, the Prime Minister co-chaired the U.N. Secretary General’s Advocacy group for the Sustainable Development Goals. During her residency as co-chair, she committed herself to increasing equitable access to education for girls and children in conflict areas. In fact, in 2018, Norway promised to increase its contribution to The Global Partnership for Education (an organization that works to improve education in developing countries) to $255 million.

2. In 2015, under the direction of Ms. Solberg, Norway committed to providing at least $6 million to improve sanitation for the estimated two billion people lacking it. This commitment may seem unrelated to education but many developing nations lack adequate sanitation, which often keeps girls from attending school regularly. Cultural stereotypes and taboos around female hygiene, especially in regards to menstruation, often keep girls out of class. The $6 million Norway pledged can make a huge difference in closing the gender gap in classrooms. For example, a UNICEF study showed that girl’s attendance improved by 12 percent in Tanzania when the girls had access to clean water. Norway’s support for proper sanitation, in tandem with education, will give girls a better opportunity to obtain a quality education.

3. In 2014, Erna Solberg launched a $12.3 million initiative in Malawi to improve the access and quality of girl’s education. On a trip to Malawi in July 2014, Ms. Solberg announced the initiative and stated that it would strengthen the education system, particularly for girls, and improve aid effectiveness. With Norway’s money and cooperation, Malawi has launched a number of programs including promoting secondary school for girls, further integrating minorities and children with disabilities into the education system and providing new technologies to enhance learning. The program has been successful so far and under Ms. Solberg’s guidance, the initiative will continue until 2020.

It is clear that since her appointment as Prime Minister of Norway in 2013, Erna Solberg has focused the plentiful resources of her nation to uplift girls in the most underprivileged countries. In an op-ed she co-wrote in 2014, she said, “if you invest in a girl, she feeds herself, educates future children, lifts up her community and propels her nation forward – charting a path that offers dignity for all in the process.” The Prime Minister openly continues to hold this belief and has launched and supported many initiatives that prove it.

– Isabel Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Mortality Rate in MalawiThe maternal mortality rate in Malawi is one of the highest in the world. The country ranks at number 13 for the highest number of maternal deaths during pregnancy or after birth.

The maternal mortality rate in Malawi has decreased over the years, but it is still an alarming issue that the country is addressing. It is estimated that per every 100,000 live births, over 600 mothers die from mostly preventable causes.

In Malawi, the circumstances of maternal mortality are complex but preventable. Like most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the health care system in Malawi is not as developed as the rest of the world. Having better access to health care and qualified personnel will save the lives of mothers and children in developing countries.

Causes of High Maternal Mortality

There are several causes related to the high maternal mortality rate in Malawi. Poverty is one of the main contributing factors. Given that half of the country’s population lives in poverty, most women cannot afford conventional health care.

The majority of the population live in remote, rural areas, making it difficult for mothers to find access to quality maternal health care. In many cases, they cannot travel long distances on foot to the nearest available clinic. According to a 2014 study, 44 percent of women in rural areas attended at least 4 antenatal care visits whereas, in urban regions, the figure jumped to 51 percent.

In Malawi, women have historically given birth in their homes due to cultural beliefs and practices. In most cases, traditional birthing attendants were present. However, many of them were not trained to respond if something were to go wrong. This most commonly occurred in impoverished families. Today, the country recognizes the need for professionally trained personnel. In 2015-2016, 91 percent of women were recorded giving birth in a healthcare facility.

Most maternal deaths are related to diseases or complications during pregnancy or childbirth. The most common direct causes of maternal death are:

  • hemorrhages,
  • infection,
  • eclampsia,
  • obstructed labor and
  • abortion.

The indirect causes include malaria, anemia, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. In most cases, these diseases or complications would have been preventable if there was better access to health care.

Improving Malawi’s Maternal Mortality

Due to foreign aid, and the dedication of the Malawian government, the maternal mortality rate in Malawi is improving with every year. In 2001, out of 100,000 live births, 868 mothers died. Today, that number is significantly lowered to just over 600.

Former Malawian president, Joyce Banda made maternal health her top priority in 2014. Through her influence, the government of Malawi constructed new maternal health facilities in rural areas, created a new system to better train birthing attendants and changed cultural norms and attitudes regarding maternal health and pregnancy.

Banda also believed in the importance of educating young women about their reproductive health. A survey on Maternal and Perinatal Health has shown that women with lower levels of maternal education are at risk of high maternal mortality even if they have access to health care facilities.

Banda made lasting changes in Malawi for the women and children of today and the generations to come.

USAID Investments to Improve the Maternal Mortality Rate in Malawi

The United States financially supports Malawi by investing in maternal and child care. USAID is investing in maternal health facilities and quality care interventions in order to progress the country’s healthcare system. USAID is also supporting national family planning programs that promote maternal education and informed decision-making for the mothers of Malawi.

As the country continues to develop, the maternal mortality rate in Malawi is decreasing.

Due to more accessible facilities, better-educated mothers and the addition of trained professionals, the status of maternal health care in Malawi has made significant strides.

– Marissa Pekular
Photo: Flickr

five beauty brandsIn today’s world, it can be difficult to decide which beauty product is just right when there are so many to choose from. Factors like cost, brand or online reviews are usually valued as the most important. In an effort to stand out and make a difference, beauty companies around the world are now donating proceeds from profits to charities and foundations of their choice. Next time the urge hits to splurge on a new moisturizer or lipstick, why not splurge for a cause? Here are five beauty brands giving back to keep on the radar in 2019.

Five Beauty Brands Giving Back

  1. INDIGO & IRIS: Based in New Zealand, Indigo & Iris is the brainchild of two best friends committed to all-things-beauty and preventing avoidable blindness. Indigo & Iris donates 50 percent of its profit directly to the Fred Hollows Foundation, which aims to address and end avoidable blindness in impoverished populations around the world. In developing countries, the absence of healthcare for eye-related diseases leads to 4 in 5 people going blind when the problem could be medically treated. Indigo & Iris’s breakout product is their mascara, Levitate, which is vegan, cruelty-free and receives high marks from online beauty and style publications such as Allure and PopSugar.
  2. SCHMIDT’S NATURALS: Looking for a fresh scent? It may be time for a new deodorant or soap. Schmidt’s Naturals is a sustainable, Portland-based manufacturer that crafts their formulas with soothing plants and minerals that are free of chemicals or harsh additives. The newest collection, Lily of the Valley, showcases a body wash and deodorant that were concocted with Jane Goodall’s favorite aromas in mind. And if having a Jane Goodall inspired body wash isn’t cool enough, 5 percent of all profits from these products go directly toward global environmental conservation efforts and the protection of wild animals through the Jane Goodall Institute.
  3. MDNA SKIN: Pop and humanitarian icon, Madonna’s nonprofit, Raising Malawi, is instrumental in providing free access to education and health for nearly 10,000 children as of 2018. Madonna’s skincare brand, MDNA Skin, donates a portion of the proceeds from her Reinvention Cream to the initiatives of Raising Malawi, which include the construction of brand new schools in the Kasungu province of Malawi. MDNA skin features a wide selection, including a chrome clay mask, a refreshing rose mist and a facial rollerball to ease away any and all kinks from the day. Lay back and relax knowing that a portion of the revenue from some of these products helps to create educational and economic opportunities for the current and future generations of Malawi.
  4. MARULA BEAUTY: As the brand’s name would suggest, Marula Beauty specializes in skin and hair care products infused with marula oil. Marula oil is especially beneficial for skin as the oil contains antioxidant and hydration properties that reduce fine lines, enhance overall complexion and act as antimicrobials. What makes this beauty brand unique is their dedication to working directly with women in African villages where there are Marula trees. Marula Beauty offers employment and fair wages to these women as they tend to and harvest the Marula trees until the oil is ready to be extracted. In this way, Marula Beauty honors the connection African communities hold to their land while offering compensation in exchange for the Marula trees’ potential, definitely earning Marula Beauty a spot on this list of five beauty brands giving back.
  5. NU SKIN: Nu Skin is a globally established company that develops and distributes skincare and dietary supplements as well as other health-related products. Whether it be the search for a rejuvenating beauty mask or lavender essential oil, Nu Skin has an array of selections and a diverse price range. The nonprofit behind the company, the Nu Skin Force For Good Foundation, utilizes a large amount of revenue from Nu Skin to fund grant projects including the School of Agriculture for Family Independence in Malawi. The school trains attendees in subjects such as sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry and forest conservation while sending their children to primary school for free. The foundation has also established the Greater China Children’s Heart Fund in response to the fact that two out of three children in China with pediatric congenital heart disease are unable to receive treatment due to cost. Money allocated for the grant goes toward covering medical and surgical expenses entirely.

Buying makeup or skincare online can often feel like a one-sided experience. Investing in the products offered by these five beauty brands giving back ensures that there is someone on the other side also profiting. And as Audrey Hepburn famously said, “I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.”

Jade Sheinwald

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Malawi
Malawi is a landlocked country in southern Africa with an increasing population. Malawi currently has a population of about 17.2 million people. One in four Malawians lives in extreme poverty such that about 2.8 million people in the country are fighting hunger. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Malawi.

Top 10 facts about hunger in Malawi

  1. A food crisis has lasted for decades – Malawi has been experiencing severe food crisis for decades. Around 1949 and 1950, Malawi had a severe famine, and in October of 2001, reports of a famine were once again spread in rural Malawi. The government did not believe the rumors and did not act on them until hunger struck in 2002. At that time, at least 500 people died of starvation and hunger-related diseases. By 2005, approximately 4.7 million Malawians, out of 12 million, still suffered from food shortages. More recently, from July 2016 until March 2017, Malawi had food security and nutrition issues due to El Niño, which led to the president declaring a state of national disaster.
  1. Unreliable weather patterns – Rural Malawians rely on smallholder farming for a living. By cultivating small pieces of land over and over, they expect to harvest enough to feed themselves and their families. Unfortunately, in the last decade, 25 percent of the country has experienced droughts more than seven times. The weather patterns have been unreliable and; as a result, farming has become increasingly difficult. The frequency in which drought and severe flooding occur has been steadily increasing and with such an unpredictable intensity that the farmers hardly have time to recover from the last disaster before they are faced with the next.
  1. Unstable economy – The economic conditions in Malawi are not very favorable. There are high inflation rates, which have resulted in high food prices. Unemployment is on the rise with little to no opportunity for work that pays any kind of living wage. Food prices in 2016 were on a rise countrywide due to a decrease in production. The price of maize was 73 percent higher than the average for the three years prior to that time. Farmers complained about the government not providing fertilizer around that time, but economist Desmond Phiri in Malawi remarked that fertilizer is of no use if there is no rainfall. His solution to the problem of a continuous dry season was irrigation.
  1. Stunting in children under five – Research shows that 37 percent of Malawian children, which is about 1.4 million, suffer from stunted growth because they are chronically under-nourished. World Food Programme (WFP) stated that only 1 out of every 3 children who are undernourished isn’t receiving adequate health care. The same study shows that there is a 30 percent increased risk of anemia in underweight children and that 23 percent of all child mortality cases are associated with under-nutrition. Stunting in children deters their brain development, school performance, immunity and health. Furthermore, there is an annual loss of $67 million due to the fact that 66 percent of the adults currently doing manual activities had been stunted as children,
  1. Malawi’s staple food wilting – Malawi’s staple food, maize, has been affected negatively by the unexpected weather trends and it is wilting. Unconfirmed estimates are that food production in the 2017/ 2018 growing season is going to be reduced by less than 50 percent. Since November 2017, the maize fields in 20 of the 28 rural districts were attacked by fall worms, which destroyed the crops of above 140 000 farming families. The worms have since moved to other African countries where they pose a threat to the maize grown there as well.
  1. Children’s education affected – Stunted growth in Malawi’s children results in them underperforming at school due to slower brain development. Studies by the WFP show that stunted children are more likely to drop out of school. They achieve about 1.5 fewer years of education and are more likely to repeat school. About 18 percent of all school year repetitions are due to the effects of stunted growth. The Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development have been carrying out a Cost of Hunger in Africa study. Findings have shown that adequate nutrition is essential for physical and intellectual development as well as work productivity. Productivity at school also requires a good diet, something most of the children in Malawi don’t have.
  1. Food reserves as a solution – The Malawi Project identified climate change as the main factor contributing to hunger in Malawi. Its solution was the introduction of food reserves under the name The Joseph Project. These reserves were noted to be important by world leaders at The Food and Agriculture Organization Summit. The Malawi Project completed the construction of community storage warehouses that are to be used during lean times. With the estimated food crisis that will probably hit Malawi in 2018/ 2019, The Joseph Project will be a sure way to provide food security to the community as the food will only be accessed when the need arises.
  1. Food from the outside – With 17.2 million people living in extreme poverty in Malawi and with the high levels of unemployment, there has been a great need for assistance with food security in the country. The WFP began working with the government of Malawi, together with other partners, to assist in alleviating the food security crisis. They work with the country’s most vulnerable people, which includes the refugees that have settled in Malawi from the areas around the horn of Africa. WFP, prompted by the sustainable development goals, seeks to achieve Zero Hunger by providing food and cash assistance after natural disasters such as the current drought. They have also made various long-term programs to help break the hunger cycle.
  1. Zero Hunger in schools – The WFP also supports Malawian education by providing meals every day to 900 primary and nursery schools, feeding approximately 1 million children. The meals are cooked fresh, and the food is bought off of the local smallholder farms in 10 percent of the schools to give the farmers business so they also have the cash to enable them to keep farming. The WFP also treats malnutrition of about 337,000 children, pregnant and breastfeeding women as well as HIV and TB patients.
  1. Weather insurance – Malawian farmers have begun buying insurance for their crops in the event of droughts. The United Nations’ WFP initiated a Rural Resilience Initiative where farmers can insure their crops against unforeseen natural occurrences through labor. The farmers provide 14 days of work within a two-month period where they create things like irrigation systems, which help when dry seasons happen upon them. An insurance payout of $400,000 will be distributed to more than 7000 families in May of this year to promote increased resilience to the impacts of climate change. Poor farmers without money to get insurance for their crops need not worry about where to borrow from as their labor is just as effective.

These top ten facts about hunger in Malawi tell a little about what Malawians are going through day after day. Although there is still a lot of progress that needs to be done in Malawi, there are people and organizations working to end hunger in the country and provide more stable farming practices throughout times of drought. These solutions could mean the eventual end of food insecurity in Malawi.

– Aquillina Ngowera
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water Access in MalawiFounded in 1999, Khalsa Aid is a U.K.-based organization that has the aim to provide humanitarian aid in disaster areas and civil conflict zones around the world.

So far, its tireless efforts have included assisting victims of the Yemen Civil War and refugees landing on the shores of Greece from the Middle East, as well as extending support to the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. In a more recent relief project, this organization gave food to 8,000 people who were affected by the floods in Kerala and continues to provide aid to bring life back to normal.

In the recent years, this organization has also made a huge effort in providing clean water in Malawi.

Langar Aid

In 2015, through its long-term initiative Langar Aid, Khalsa Aid dedicated a team for its Malawi Project.

Though considered to be one of the smallest and least developed countries in the African continent, Malawi region is widely known to be the warm heart of Africa. In 2015, the region suffered a major setback from one of its worst floodings and according to the United Nations, close to a quarter of a million people remained displaced, facing disease and malnutrition. With total estimated damages of $50 million and 15 affected districts out of Malawi’s total 28, the Malawi government with the help of UNICEF launched series of relief programs. The aim was to rebuild infrastructure and provide clean water and life-saving food assistance to those affected.

In response to the flooding situation, Khalsa Aid’s humanitarian efforts in Malawi involved initial installation of water pumps in the rural region, and subsequently, the addition of many more water pumps.

In 2015, with the help of donations, the team of Langar Aid went on grounds of Malawi to access the situation and provide assistance to the local communities. After a detailed assessment and consultation, the team felt an urgent need to provide vital food supplies and clean drinking water in the region. A relief team from Khalsa Aid visited the region for an initial assessment and found that many people had no access to clean drinking water due to damaged infrastructure. The team noticed that many people of the country’s town Phalombe had to walk for miles or take a bicycle and carry the buckets of water themselves.

The Success of the Project

Through their interactions with local communities, government and contractors, the team of Khalsa Aid created a permanent water source in the region. The volunteers and team of specialists mobilized drilling resources and after hours of drilling, a suitable water well was found. A hand pump was included on a platform on top of the water well, making it convenient for locals to fetch the water from the well.

Additionally, the people of Malawi along with the village administrative authorities received orientation session and were given handouts explaining the usage and maintenance of installed water pumps. Khalsa Aid now plans on drilling more boreholes in the region of Phalombe to make clean water more accessible for local communities.

Through the project of Langar Aid, Khalsa Aid’s humanitarian efforts in Malawi included an extended support for an estimated 500 families over a month through the provision of “food drops”. These are packages of nutritious meals that contained an assortment of fresh food, vegetables and seasonings. The volunteer team of Langar Aid also installed eco-friendly clean water pumps.

Local government and organizations like WaterAid have also been working to ensure that communities in Malawi region have clean water, toilets and sanitation. Only one in three people in the Malawi region has access to clean water, that amounts to roughly 5.6 million.

A region where more than half the entire population awaits a decent toilet and where dirty water and poor toilets are a prime reason for deaths of 31,000 children in a year, noble initiatives like Khalsa Aid are getting much appreciation and extensive global support.

– Deena Zaidi
Photo: Flickr

Efforts to Improve Credit Access in MalawiAlthough the Southern African country of Malawi is small, its arable topography and high population have contributed to its economic growth. With a population of more than 19 million, Malawi has a GDP of about $6.3 billion and has had a steady growth of at least 2 percent annually. Despite this economic growth, poverty and hunger remain serious issues in the country. These issues have indirect links to credit access in Malawi, and through improved credit in the country, Malawians could experience a decrease in overall poverty.

Credit Limitations In Malawi

Credit access in Malawi, like in other sub-Saharan countries, is particularly limited in rural areas. These rural areas are typically those most in need of access to formal loans for business and agricultural endeavors. Only 11.7 percent of rural Malawians took out loans in the last year, and only 40.3 percent of those were acquired formally through banks. Credit supply in Malawi also requires collateral and comes with high-interest rates and specific conditions for borrowers. These conditions make it extremely difficult for Malawians to qualify for credit. In fact, The World Bank ranks Malawi a low 109 out of 129 countries because accessing credit for small business is so difficult.

Lack of credit access in Malawi has an indirect correlation to nutrition and economic development in rural areas. According to studies conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, households with more livestock and land have fewer opportunities to access formal credit. Credit access is also affected by the crops grown by Malawians. Tobacco is often grown by farmers to offset credit costs and make more money than maize farmers, but they are more nutritionally deficient than their counterparts. Some farmers can gain access to small amounts of credit depending on their crop’s nutritional or agricultural profit.

Improving Access To Credit in Malawi

Several organizations are currently attempting to better credit access in Malawi in order to decrease poverty and hunger issues throughout the country. The World Food Programme (WFP) buys food directly from small, rural farmers in Malawi through a system called The Warehouse Receipt System. This market facilitation is managed by WFP and offers farmers receipts for crops that have been cleaned and graded to use as collateral for formal bank loans. These economic opportunities for small farmers have led to increased loan access and have also promoted a structured market demand in the country. For women in particular, who constitute 42 percent farmers in the program, the gender gap in the agricultural industry is slowly being closed.

Financial organizations, like the Malawi Union of Saving and Credit Cooperatives (MUSCCO), also operate in the country to improve credit access. MUSCCO’s goal is to organize and develop Saving and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs) in Malawi in order to mobilize capital and meet the developmental needs of Malawians. These SACCOs, in turn, work with stakeholders and banks in order to further economic development in the country and create diversified financial opportunities.

Limited credit access in Malawi, much like other developing countries, constricts the country’s economy and range of financial operations. Malawian farmers are particularly limited in their access to formal loans that would instigate economic growth. With the assistance of organizations like The World Food Program and SACCOs, not only would credit access in Malawi improve for farmers but it would also help to decrease poverty and improve economic development.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr

Typhoid in MalawiTyphoid is a bacteria known as Salmonella Typhi that causes a gastrointestinal infection, leading to typhoid fever. This bacteria transfers from person to person and is spread due to lack of access to adequate sanitation and clean water. Typhoid continues to afflict many countries across the world in regions lacking access to sanitation. In 2016, an estimated 130,000 people died from typhoid fever across the world. One of the countries where typhoid continues to be a serious problem is the southeastern African country of Malawi.

Symptoms and Effects of Typhoid

Those affected by typhoid fever often struggle with symptoms such as extreme fatigue, rashes and a loss of appetite. In severe cases, typhoid can cause hemorrhaging or a perforation in the intestines.  Even after patients recover from typhoid or stop showing symptoms, they may continue to carry and spread the bacteria. Typhoid also affects more than just physical health; illness can impact people’s lives by impeding their ability to work or even to go to school. This results in a loss of wages or education for the duration a person suffers from typhoid. In recent years, typhoid has become more dangerous, as the bacteria grows increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment.

The New Vaccine Against Typhoid in Malawi

Due to the severe prevalence of typhoid in Malawi, there has been a push for the use of vaccinations to prevent, or at least reduce, the effect of typhoid. In February of 2018, a conjugate vaccine trial was launched in Malawi. This vaccine is called Typbar-TCV. Young children are particularly vulnerable to typhoid, and Typbar-TCV is the first vaccine against the disease that can be given to children younger than two years old. Roughly 24,000 children in Malawi will participate in the trial.

Typbar-TCV was developed by Bharat Biotech, an Indian biotechnology company. Several studies have been conducted since 2005, and the vaccine was first launched in 2013. This vaccine has a wide range of effectiveness, from children as young as six months old to adults. Tests have shown that the vaccine to be 87 percent effective in preventing the contraction of typhoid. It also lasts longer than previously used vaccines, providing greater protection for a longer period of time.

Benefits of Typbar-TCV

The cost of treating typhoid can be a significant burden on people living in poverty, but the new vaccine takes steps to alleviate this burden. A study in 2016 reported that almost 70 percent of people living in Malawi were surviving on $1.90 USD or less per day. In the majority of developing countries, treatment for typhoid can be between $50 and $5,000. In contrast, the new Typbar-TCV vaccine costs $1.50 per dose to GAVI eligible countries. Through the vaccine’s affordability, the prohibitive cost burden that typhoid places on those who are the most vulnerable can be avoided.

Over the span of four years leading up to 2014, the appearance of multidrug-resistant typhoid increased by 90 percent in Malawi. Because of inadequate sanitation, people in the country remain vulnerable to typhoid while the disease itself becomes more difficult to treat. This antibiotic resistance increases the urgency for methods to prevent the spread of typhoid so that antibiotics become unnecessary. The Typbar-TCV vaccine is a step in the direction of reducing this danger by hindering the growth of increasingly deadly and untreatable forms of typhoid.

The use of Typbar-TCV in Malawi is a great achievement. The vaccine provides a method of preventing the spread of typhoid among those who need it, including infants who are most vulnerable to the dangers of the disease. Typbar-TCV will reduce the need for the antibiotics required after a person has contracted typhoid; this reduces the prevalence of multidrug-resistant strains of typhoid as well as protecting people from becoming infected in the first place. This vaccine against typhoid keeps the most vulnerable populations of Malawi safe.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in MalawiAs of today, the literacy rate of children in Malawi is considerably higher than its neighboring countries in Africa, with 72 percent of the youth aged 15 to 24 able to read and write. But, closer inspection of data reveals that the state of girls’ education in Malawi is still in critical condition.

With more than 85 percent of its population living in rural areas, Malawi faces a critical problem of girls under-enrolled and outnumbered in the majority of its primary schools.

Furthermore, primary education attendance does not mean that students will automatically go on to pursue higher level education. Only 6 percent of girls graduate from high school each year, with only 2.9 percent going on to seek post-secondary education studies.

Barriers to Girls’ Education in Malawi

Multiple barriers still exist for girls to seek out proper primary and secondary education.

  • Child marriage in Malawi is still a prominent cultural practice, with more than 40 percent of girls married by the time they are 18.
  • The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is another barrier that prevents girls from finishing school. An estimated 12 percent of the current sexually active population in Malawi live with the HIV/AIDS virus.
  • Due to widespread poverty in Malawi, educating children is a heavy burden for many families. When faced with a choice, parents will often choose to invest in education for their sons instead of daughters. Therefore, there is a dire need to promote the education of women and children in Malawi in order to improve their quality of life.

Improvements to Girls’ Education in Malawi

The Girls Attainment in Basic Literacy and Education Program (GABLE) was launched in 1991 with support from USAID. Its main objectives were to increase the government’s financial resources used for education and to improve on the quality, availability, and efficiency of education, especially for young women.

The program was a success in reforming education policies from no longer requiring students to purchase and wear uniforms in 1992 to completely abolishing all school fees in 1994. There was also the significant advancement of girls’ education in Malawi, as leftover funds were used as scholarships to support young women in secondary school.

From 1994 to 2005, the number of girls enrolled in primary school has more than doubled.

Girls’ Education and Health

Organizations like Advancing Girls’ Education (AGE) in Africa are also currently working on the advancing girls’ education in Malawi. Through providing teenage girls with resources and information needed to complete their secondary education, the organization hopes to encourage young women to make healthy and educated life choices that will better their living conditions in adulthood.

Among their tactics is the education of young women in school about the HIV/AIDS virus. Studies show a link between education and a woman’s likelihood to abstain from sex and overall have fewer sexual partners. Since HIV/AIDS is so prominent in Malawi, it is extremely important that sexually active women, many of whom are under 18, are educated on the matter.

Opening up doors for girls to have access to primary and secondary education is a stride towards stopping the spread of the pandemic in Malawi.

Education is not only a fundamental right for the youth of today, but it is now seen as one of the many solutions to ending global poverty. Through the empowerment of young women in Malawi, organizations like AGE Africa are able to break through cultural walls that keep the girls from receiving the education they need and deserve.

– Winda Wanikpun
Photo: Flickr