Cholera Outbreak in Malawi
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “cholera is an intestinal infection that ingesting the bacteria Vibrio cholera in contaminated food and water causes.” Inadequate sanitation and lack of safe drinking water is the most common way to contract cholera, which causes severe diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. Although it is an easily treatable disease, it can be fatal without treatment for even a few hours. Displaced populations and overcrowded camps on top of a lack of safe water and medication lead to an increased risk of the spread of cholera. Beginning in March 2022, a cholera outbreak in Malawi infected about 6,056 people with 183 deaths as of the end of October.

The Current Situation

Since 1998, cholera has plagued Malawi, specifically in the southern regions where there is frequent flooding in the rainy season. The current outbreak is the “largest reported Cholera outbreak in Malawi in the past 10 years” and comes after tropical storm Ana in January 2022 and Cyclone Gombe in March 2022, WHO reports. These storms spurred flooding and displacement of an already susceptible population who now lack access to safe water and sanitation.

Over the holidays, the outbreak surged causing 19 deaths on New Year’s Eve and the closure of primary and secondary schools in the capital Lilongwe and the commercial hub Blantyre. In these two cities, one of the main sources of the outbreak is improper drainage systems, which leads to polluted water sources.

The current cholera outbreak in Malawi exacerbates the country’s existing hunger crisis. With around “5.4 million individuals facing hunger,” a lack of sufficient nutrients weakens people’s immunity and leaves them highly susceptible to a fatal case of cholera. Malawi is one of the poorest nations in the world with 70% living in the country on less than $1.25 a day. In addition, 80% of the country’s population is in agriculture, an industry that storms and flooding deeply affect.

Some of the most at-risk populations during the cholera outbreak in Malawi are pregnant women and mothers with young children as they experience an increased workload and extra risk of infection as primary caregivers. This also threatens the advancement of women and girls in education and economic empowerment as they focus first on survival.

Malawi’s Response & International Aid

In response to the cholera outbreak in Malawi, the Ministry of Health and WHO are conducting an emergency response that consists of “surveillance, social mobilization, treatment, water sanitation, hygiene and oral cholera vaccines,” WHO reports. A cholera response plan and national and district-level emergency operation centers are mobilized nationally. The most affected districts received cholera kits, IV fluids, antibiotics, protective equipment, diagnostic tests, tents and cholera beds.

CARE will distribute chlorine powder for water purification in affected communities as well as supply Oral Rehydration solutions.

On November 7, 2022, Lilongwe received 2.9 million doses of Oral Cholera Vaccine (OCV) for a single-dose reactive campaign to the current Cholera outbreak in Malawi. The OCV campaign targets “adults and children aged 1-year-old and above living in highly affected districts.” The second campaign will prioritize providing vaccines to 14 districts with a large number of cholera cases.

UNICEF joins WHO and the Government of Malawi to strengthen water treatment systems, train health care workers, distribute medical supplies, provide clinical care and raise awareness regarding cholera prevention methods and best hygiene practices. The Government of Malawi has also appealed to the public and private companies and organizations for aid and constructed new, clean water spots in affected areas. As of November 6, around 6,398 people have recovered from the disease, UNICEF reports.

While numbers from January 11, 2023, reported 3,415 new cholera cases, according to Nyasa Times.

– Arden Schraff
Photo: Flickr

Malawi Eliminated Trachoma
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Malawi is among 15 countries that recently eliminated trachoma. Presently, trachoma is one of the 20 most dangerous neglected tropical diseases identified by WHO. The eradication of trachoma has been a 12-year process by the Malawi government and non-governmental organizations. Here are all the facts about how Malawi eliminated trachoma and the lessons from their success in global health.

The History of Trachoma and Malawi

During the last 20 years, people at risk of blindness from trachoma decreased from 1.5 billion to 125 million. However, trachoma remains a severe health problem for more than 35 countries throughout the poorest regions of Central and South America, Asia and Africa. Specifically, trachoma disease is most prevalent in Africa, representing 84% of the worldwide concentration.

In Malawi, trachoma became endemic during the 1980s. But the government ignored the disease until 2008 when WHO and Sightsavers implemented surveys in the country. Afterward, the government of Malawi noted that 7.6 million people could contract trachoma in 2015.

The Path to the Eradication of Trachoma in Malawi

In 1996, WHO created the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020. The plan defined the elimination of trachoma as less than 2% in adults ages 15 or older and only one case per 1,000 people. According to WHO, the project targeted children ages 1 to 9  years old to obtain less than 5% infection. Specifically, Malawi was among the key 25 African countries in the project for the elimination of trachoma.

The effects of trachoma were especially life-threatening for millions of children in Malawi and caused financial instability for their families. However, between 2013 and 2015, the Malawi Ministry of Health mapped and targeted 25 districts most at risk of developing trachoma. The Malawi Ministry of Health used the Global Trachoma Mapping Project guidelines to establish the most endemic districts, which totaled about 9 million people. There were six districts, as the Malawi Ministry of Health reported, but none had surgery services. Lastly, in the Mchinji district, the disease prevalence was 21.3% for children ages 1 to 9 years old.

The Solution

In 2022, the Malawi Ministry of Health eliminated trachoma through SAFE, a strategy that WHO recommended. Furthermore, the Sightsavers organization and the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust partly organized and funded the strategy. The SAFE strategy includes surgery to stop eyelashes from scrapping the eye, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvements, according to Uniting to Combat NTDs.

As a result, trained local surgeons treated more than 6,000 cases of trachoma and volunteers distributed more than 22 million drug treatments that Pfizer donated. They supported more than 250 schools to improve hygiene and sanitation in their community. Lastly, Malawi is one of the first countries to adopt the Kigali Declaration on neglected tropical diseases, strengthening their political commitment to eradicate the disease.

A Victory for the People

The eradication of trachoma represents a victory for the people and government of Malawi. However, many lives did not survive in time along the path to find the solution. Still, the complete elimination of the disease represents the effectiveness of collaboration among international efforts.

The Malawi Ministry of Health, WHO, nonprofit organizations and the willingness to adopt the SAFE strategy demonstrate the value of continual support for these international organizations by high-income countries and individuals.

– Andres Valencia
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Malawi
The COVID-19 pandemic displayed a significant impact on the world’s economic situation and presented numerous challenges for several countries. One such country is Malawi, located in the Southern part of Africa. In 2020, Malawi stood at 174 from a sum of 189 countries on the Human Development Index. This article delves deeper into the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Malawi in terms of economic activity, education and food security.

Economy

In response to the pandemic, several governments around the world adopted restriction measures on imports and exports. Such safety measures displayed numerous ramifications on Malawi’s economy. This is especially since it heavily relies on imports pertinent to energy, agriculture and health among others. For instance, 80% of the overall population is employed by the agricultural sector, which also accounts for 30% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Scarce availability of such rudimentary resources caused the cost of living to increase, and in 2020, 17% of the general public lived below the poverty line. One can attribute such a decline in Malawi’s economic activity to heightened government spending during the pandemic, which accounted for $345 million. In 2020, the fiscal deficit stood at 7.7%, and economic growth declined to 1.7% compared to 5.7% in 2019.

To help curb the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Malawi, the country’s government launched cash aid for affected households and small-sized business entities. The cash aid encapsulates aiding around 1 million eligible households and businesses with $40 monthly payments, equivalent to 35,000 Malawi Kwacha.

Education

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many countries to shift from traditional to virtual education. This shift placed much emphasis on access to technological facilities among pupils. Increased poverty rates in Malawi, impeded learners’ ability to access online education due to limited internet facilities. According to UNICEF, COVID-19 caused students’ performance to plummet across the country. As a result, the Malawi government contracted with Telecom Network Malawi (TNM). TLM is an internet company, which, as part of the agreement, provided free unlimited internet packages to students. This agreement enabled learners across all different levels to obtain equal access to online education, especially since COVID-19 halted the education for 5.4 million students from both schools and universities.

Food Security

The impact of COVID-19 economic growth and poverty in Malawi yielded devastating results for the overall population. The outbreak of COVID-19 contributed to widespread disproportionate food insecurity. One can primarily attribute challenges relevant to nutritional support to rising poverty and declining agricultural productivity. To mitigate against food insecurity, UNICEF for instance, supported the government of Malawi in the delivery of adequate nutritional support. Other efforts to curtail hunger include World Food Programme assistance (WFP). Through funding via USAID, WFP provides financial and nutritional support to 382,000 food-deprived Malawians. Efforts such as those, assist the Malawian people to recover and survive in the midst of a food crisis, as well as allow the general public to lead healthy and sustainable lives.

The emergence of the pandemic on the global level, contributed to increased poverty and unemployment rates, alongside a declining economy. Measures and initiatives such as those that the WFP and government implemented enable the nation to undergrow economic recovery, as well as improve the living conditions across the country.

– Lisa Dzuwa
Photo: Unsplash

Progress In Malawi
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) created a digital risk management information system (DRMIS). Currently headquartered in four districts (Balaka, Chikwawa, Mangochi and Phalombe), this initiative collects key data from various sectors to aid communities that natural disasters affected through the delivery of essential services. This advancement in technology has created immense progress in Malawi, a nation that suffers frequently from floods.

Impact of Natural Disasters

Furthermore, studies have shown that floods may lead to an average GDP loss of 1% each year. Floods in Southern Malawi have also caused annual losses of 12% in maize crops. This can seriously stint progress in Malawi as maize is the nation’s staple food crop and accounts for 25% of total agricultural employment.

However, the system that UNDP and DoDMA created aims to digitally record disaster-related information, make better sense of the data available and provide more accurate data-informed insights on what action to take. This will help tackle issues that have risen in the past such as the lack of cohesion and coordination between various disaster relief units in Malawi. Data can help disaster relief units become more organized and effective in their response to crises like floods, cyclones, droughts and hailstorms.

Features and Functions

The system is user-friendly and incorporates several digital design principles using open-source technology. In addition, the system can function in offline mode as well which ensures that users can input data during power outages that may follow a natural disaster. Once the connection undergoes restoration, the data automatically uploads into the system and feeds into a set of real-time data visualizations that users then engage with.

The system also relies on a cluster approach to help coordinate humanitarian assistance in times of emergency. Data pipelines are in place for key reporting units and can help generate key insights on clusters such as shelter and sanitation. Although the initiative is only championed in four key regions, there are plans underway to expand the system to another five regions and then nationwide. The UNDP is exploring methods to improve the system even further, possibly to include features informing users on resource allocation, availability of supply of goods and estimated time for supply deliveries.

Progress in Malawi

This new technology will save countless lives, and lessen the negative impact of natural disasters on the economy. Furthermore, since Malawi relies heavily on rainfed agriculture, it is extremely vulnerable to non-compliant weather conditions and natural disasters. The nation has also faced further difficulties in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the effects of the fourth and most recent wave of the pandemic in 2021 have created far less economic damage than in previous years. Favorable weather and agricultural input subsidies have created a boost in maize and tobacco production which has in turn helped to boost the local economy. With the support of the data system introduced by the UNDP and DoDMA, one can expect a positive trajectory for the economy and progress in Malawi.

– Samyudha Rajesh
Photo: Flickr

Drones to Tackle Malaria
Although it is a country of progress, Malawi faces social issues and is currently dealing with the impact of disease and finding solutions. The use of a technology method, specifically drones to tackle malaria, is helping to identify and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds and it could be the breaking point of innovation used to eradicate malaria throughout the nation.

Impact of Malaria on Malawi’s Health Care

In Malawi, malaria is the leading cause of death in young children. Each year, there are about 5 million cases of malaria. Experts believe that Malaria is responsible for 34% of all outpatient visits and 40% of all hospital admissions among children under the age of 5. Although Malawi strives to improve economically it still remains one of the world’s poorest nations.

More than 70% of the population lives in poverty, with $1.90 per day. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 epidemic has had a significant impact on the economy of Malawi. This is because COVID-19 has had a negative monetary impact on economic growth and health care. Prior to COVID-19, telemedicine innovations were expanding due to their promise to provide accessible health care to remote populations that lack access to local resources or expertise.

Experts say that the overburdened health care system leads to increased cases of individuals dying from illnesses like malaria before receiving treatment and COVID-19 has slowed down health services. Therefore, lowering the possibility of transmission of malaria could be an essential part of the nation’s malaria control effort.

The Implementation

Malawi is using drones to tackle malaria in order to keep an eye on mosquito breeding sites in Malawi’s central district known as Kasungu. This is the way to assist scientists in mapping the locations of mosquito infestations in water bodies, according to the World Economic Forum. Along with the African Drone Academy and the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust (MLW), researchers set out to track mosquito habitats in Kasungu. Kasungu is abundant in dams and reservoirs, which sustain insect breeding sites during the dry season, The Telegraph reported.

Researchers used drones to map prospective larval homes in an area of 10 kilometers squared by taking in-depth pictures of the area from a height of about 120 meters. With the help of a GPS, the researchers then sampled larvae in order to find out which areas were more prone to mosquito breeding. Following that, they monitored the possibility of exposure within the home, enabling extremely focused malaria disruption activities.

The Aftermath

It is evident that Malawi strives to curb the impact that malaria has on its people. A campaign has started in order to stop malaria by the year 2030 and such efforts have the potential to be achieved. The use of technology to curb issues within a modern world is showing to be progressive. In fact, according to The Telegraph, researchers claim that the investigation of using drones to tackle malaria has improved understanding of how minor dams and reservoirs impact mosquito populations.

The project’s success has encouraged the researchers to modify the technology to track the effects of plastic trash on the ecosystem and human health as well. Malawi’s continued progress and innovation could help the poor fight against malaria, leaving less of a burden on them for health care.

– Frema Mensah
Photo: Unsplash

Agriculture in MalawiWith 80% of Malawians working as smallholder farmers, a great deal of the Malawian population and economy depend on the agricultural sector. However, 70.3% of Malawians currently live below the international poverty line and severe droughts and floods frequently threaten agriculture in Malawi and farmers’ livelihoods. The Malawian people are in need now more than ever of initiatives and funding to support the agricultural sector.

This is why the U.S., in its recent developmental work in Malawi, is largely prioritizing agricultural initiatives which have the potential to see the country’s soaring poverty and food insecurity rates decrease as well as boost economic growth and innovation. With that, here are a few of the important steps the U.S. is currently taking to support agriculture in Malawi.

Increasing Commercialization

Among the U.S.’s goals for the Malawian agricultural sector, one major aspect is expanding the industry’s commercialization. In a recent press release, USAID announced its $35 million support for the expansion and strengthening of Malawi’s agricultural industry. It pointed out that the country’s population is growing and limited agricultural productivity has presented numerous obstacles to meeting growing needs.

“Malawi’s agricultural industry is not sufficiently commercialized nor large enough to meet the needs of a growing population, which is projected to double to nearly 34 million people in just over two decades,” USAID explained. “[This] new project will generate jobs and incomes for smallholder farmers and increase agricultural and food exports for the country.”

Strengthening the Private Sector

As part of supporting the expanded commercialization of Malawi’s agricultural industry, the U.S. also aims to boost investment in the country’s private sector. In a speech in Malawi on July 2, USAID Administrator Samantha Powers reconfirmed this commitment, stating, “We will invest in rural economic hubs, supporting companies that, themselves, support smallholder farmers or help process their goods for export.”

One such program which will invest in the private sector in order to bolster agricultural growth and commercialization is the “Let Them Grow Healthy” initiative. Through this initiative, “USAID will invest $23 million and the private sector will match this by also contributing $23 million.” Specifically, the initiative will aim to invest in companies that have the potential to aid the Malawian government’s goals related to increasing the country’s food security and nutrition services.

Roughly 5.4 million Malawians face moderate or severe food insecurity. Initiatives such as this one are a step in the right direction for encouraging the growth and development of new, accessible and nutrient-rich food products and services.

Feed the Future Initiative

In another major victory for the future of agriculture in Malawi, at the recent G7 Leaders’ Summit in Germany, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the expansion of the Feed the Future Initiative to include several new African countries, Malawi among them.

Developed by the U.S. in 2010, Feed the Future works to identify the root causes of hunger and poverty around the globe and address them by “boosting inclusive agriculture-led economic growth, resilience and nutrition in countries with great need and opportunity for improvement.” Feed the Future is widely regarded as the U.S.’s flagship agricultural development program. USAID Administrator Samantha Powers, responding to the expansion, briefly summed up its significance for Malawi. She stated that “This will mean an intensification of our efforts to strengthen food security, poverty reduction and agricultural growth in the country.”

According to USAID, in Malawi, among other things, Feed the Future will specifically work to:

  • Develop strategies for long-term agricultural development
  • Train farmers to utilize new practices and technologies to boost productivity
  • Improve nutrition and curb child mortality
  • Work with the Government of Malawi to “develop enabling agricultural policies.”

Future at Glance

Harsh climate shocks and limited economic growth have had a negative impact on many Malawians’ way of life in the agricultural sector in recent years. However, with these current programs in place and others scheduled to take place, hope is certainly on the horizon.

Given the significant strides Malawi has made in other areas of its country— such as increased access to education, the prioritization of gender equality, as well as the reduction of some income inequality between the rich and the poor — Malawi is certainly capable of positive change. With this strong support from the U.S. and its continued partnership with the Government of Malawi, agriculture in Malawi might just see a similar chance for improvement.

– Riley Wooldridge
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Malawi“After feeling pity with my situation, my friend asked [me] to go where she works. Upon reaching there, I was disturbed to see that it was sex work. I could not object because I needed money.” According to the Voice of America (VOA), that was the reason 17-year-old Hilda became a victim of sex trafficking after the death of her parents. Unfortunately, the wish to escape poverty fuels human trafficking in Malawi.

Five Reasons for Human Trafficking in Malawi

Located in Southeastern Africa, Malawi spans over 45,000 square miles and has an estimated population of 19 million. Although the government passed the Trafficking in Persons Act in 2015, human trafficking in Malawi remains rampant for many reasons, including Malawi’s extreme poverty, cultural practices and lack of law enforcement. Of course, the effects of COVID-19 also exacerbate this problem. Here are five reasons why Malawi is a source of trafficking:

  1. Poverty fuels human trafficking. According to the World Bank, more than half of the Malawi population lives below the national poverty rate. In fact, as one of the poorest countries in the world, Malawi ranks 174 out of 189 countries on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. This is partly because, as a developing nation, Malawi’s main business and export continues to be agricultural products, making the nation particularly susceptible to weather shocks and climate changes.
  2. Food insecurity plagues Malawi. Despite record harvests, 1.1 million Malawians faced high-level acute food insecurity in 2021. The agricultural sector struggles with productivity, and there are few economic opportunities beyond farming. Together, this creates extensive rural unemployment. It also makes rural residents exceptionally vulnerable to promises of good work and pay in bigger cities—the most common ruse used for human trafficking.
  3. Cultural practices put girls at risk. Despite the fact it banned child marriage in 2017, Malawi still has a high child marriage rate. Long-established cultural practices drive the continuation of child marriage and sex trafficking. For example, families marry off young girls as payment for repaying debts or dowries. Another common custom called “kutomera” involves an older (and often wealthy) man choosing a young girl to be his future wife. After negotiating payment, the girl waits until she is sexually mature and then they take her to her designated husband. Also, sex traffickers recruit girls for “domestic service” but instead force the girls into marriages in which their husbands then force them into sex trafficking.
  4. Laws are often not enforced. In a giant step towards ending human trafficking in Malawi, the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Act criminalized human trafficking and prescribed punishments of up to 14 or 21 years in prison. The government also endorsed several international human rights treaties. These include the Maputo Protocol which obligates the government to protect women and girls from sex trafficking. Unfortunately, according to Equality Now, the Malawian government often fails to adequately enforce these laws. Furthermore, poverty fuels the high levels of corruption that still exist among numerous local officials. This means many human trafficking organizations operate without fear of the law.  Even in the rare case perpetrators are apprehended, many are not held accountable through prosecution.
  5. The effects of COVID-19. Human trafficking in Malawi has worsened since the start of the pandemic. Before COVID-19, PSGR saw around two to three cases a week. During the pandemic, the number increased to seven cases a week, with some weeks seeing up to 10 or 15. This is because the economic downturns created by COVID-19 have exacerbated unemployment. This, in turn, makes people even more desperate to escape chronic poverty and vulnerable to sex traffickers.

PSGR:  Combatting Human Trafficking

Although human trafficking in Malawi continues to be a huge issue, numerous social organizations are on the ground attempting to tackle the problem. In 2020, People Serving Girls at Risk (PSGR), a local NGO helping trafficking survivors, handled more than 600 cases of sex trafficking. Yet the Malawi Police Services only reported the arrest of 48 suspects and convicted only 30 of them. That’s one reason PSGR recently launched a six-year project to mentor sex workers to learn income-generating skills so they will become less vulnerable to sex trafficking. PSGR Team Leader Caleb Ng’omba said, “Our core purpose is to empower them with vocational and other skills that they could use to generate income to reduce their vulnerability to sex work, early marriages or child labour.”

The five causes of human trafficking listed above are no doubt serious hurdles that the Malawian government face, but the continuous effort of both the administration and the NGOs could result in significant progress in the near future.

-Emilie Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Drones in sub-Saharan Africa
On May 19, 2022, German delivery drone company Wingcopter and Ghana-based drone company Continental Drones announced a partnership plan to deploy 12,000 supply drones across 49 sub-Saharan African countries. to establish a delivery network. According to Wingcopter’s website, “these networks will dramatically improve the reliability and efficiency of existing supply chains but also help create completely new ones.” The drones will also be deployed to improve the lives of African people “through the on-demand delivery of medicines, vaccines, or laboratory samples but also essential goods for daily use.” Drones in sub-Saharan Africa offer the opportunity to reduce the current poverty rate in sub-Saharan Africa, which stood at roughly 41% as of 2018.

The Impact of the Russia-Ukraine War

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbates hunger and food insecurity in Africa because several nations rely on Ukraine and Russia for wheat, oil and fertilizer, however, “the war disrupts global commodity markets and trade flows to Africa, increasing already high food prices in the region.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicates that its Food Price Index, “a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities,” rose by 12.6% from February 2022 to March 2022 as a consequence of the war. This percentage is the highest since the creation of the index in the 1990s.

Africa Renewal stated that, in 2020, about 282 million people in Africa endured hunger, a figure which the Russia-Ukraine war will only heighten.

Necessary Supplies and Economic Impact

Drones offer faster access to “vaccines, medicines, lab samples and other key medical supplies” along with food sources. Wingcopter has already established partnerships with hospitals in Malawi to ensure more efficient delivery of resources.

Along with providing life-saving supplies using drones in sub-Saharan Africa, this partnership will boost economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa through the creation of new job opportunities necessary to operate the drone network.

Wingcopter 198 Drone Capabilities

The partnership between Wingcopter and Continental drones will involve the use of the Wingcopter 198, “the world’s most advanced delivery drone.” Unlike a typical drone, Wingcopter 198 drones can fly in strong winds and rain to deliver supplies. A single Wingcopter 198 drone can carry around six kilograms of cargo during flight and has a range of up to 110 kilometers at full capacity.

Speed is most important when it comes to life-saving supplies. These drones have a default cruise speed of 100 kilometers per hour, which means the droners are able to deliver in a timely manner and emit lower emissions than other forms of delivery.

Apart from the ability to deliver supplies quickly, the Wingcopter 198 is cost-effective due to its innovative features such as “a triple-drop system, unique control station software for efficient mission planning and advanced maintenance technology.”

The Use of Drones in Malawi

Malawi is home to the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA). UNICEF founded ADDA in January 2020, with the aim of providing locals with the skills and knowledge necessary to utilize drone technology and advance drone systems “for more effective humanitarian and development response.”

UNICEF and partners have utilized drones in Malawi for several purposes. For example, in 2016, UNICEF began using drones to minimize “waiting times for HIV testing of infants” by sending dried blood spot samples from isolated areas in Malawi to laboratories via drone.

In 2017, UNICEF created the world’s “first humanitarian drone corridor” with the aim of supplying an ideal environment for organizations and entities to discover and experiment with drones for humanitarian purposes in developing countries like Malawi.

With the support of international aid and the Malawi government, Wingcopter and Continental Drones provide a solution to the rising food insecurity and health decline caused by Africa’s extreme weather patterns and the Russian invasion.

– Sara Sweitzer
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

School Enrollment Rates for Girls in Malawi
Malawi’s average literacy rate for adults 15 and older stood at 62% in 2015, according to the latest available World Bank data, which is lower than its neighboring countries. According to the latest estimates, Tanzania’s literacy rate stands at 78% and Mozambique’s literacy rate equates to 61%. In addition, the average literacy rate across sub-Saharan Africa stands at 66%. In 2014, Malawi noted a male adult literacy rate of 75% in comparison to 55% for females of the same group. Due to these gender disparities in literacy rates, several initiatives are working to improve school enrollment rates for girls in Malawi.

Reasons for Female School Dropout Rates in Malawi

In sub-Saharan Africa in general, roughly 33% of school-aged children do not attend school. Furthermore, for every 100 male sub-Saharan African students out of primary school, there are 123 female sub-Saharan African students not attending primary school. In Malawi particularly, research shows that female students are more likely to drop out of school than male Malawian students. Data indicates that “Malawi has one of the highest school dropout rates in Southern Africa.” Among females particularly, “three in every [20]” Malawian girls leave primary school “between Standard 5 and 8.”

According to a 2018 Malawi Government’s Education Management and Information Systems (EMIS) survey, girls in Malawi drop out of school for several reasons. Among these reasons are circumstances of poverty, child marriage, early pregnancy, “parents’ negative attitudes toward the education of girls” and household responsibilities. According to the survey, about 7% of female students abandoned their education due to marriage and 5% due to pregnancy.

Another factor is poor academic performance, which links to low quality of education. Living far away from schools also plays a role — 82% of Malawians live in rural areas, which often have few schools in close proximity. A lack of female teachers in schools means female students do not have female role models within the education sector. A 2015 study noted that “female teachers who also act as role models” to female students help keep girls in school. Poverty plays a significant role too as many impoverished families cannot afford school expenses and tend to prioritize the education of male children over female children due to societal perceptions.

Programs to Improve School Enrollment Rates for Girls in Malawi

In 1994, the Malawian government made primary education free to increase enrollment rates, especially among girls. The issue arises with secondary education, which is dominated by boys because many girls drop out before fully completing high school. Girls’ completion of secondary education is one of the most effective ways to combat other problems in Malawi, such as child marriages and early pregnancies.

The Improving Secondary Education in Malawi (ISEM) program is a four-year initiative running from 2017 to 2021, “which is supported by the European Union and implemented by GENET in partnership with OXFAM.” ISEM aims to improve secondary school enrollment rates for girls in Malawi, among other goals.

The program has funded school attire and learning supplies as well as bursaries. For rural students who walk long distances to reach school, sometimes more than two hours, ISEM donates bicycles as a transportation method. By eliminating these long travel times to school, ISEM aimed to improve the energy levels of students, increase punctuality and improve school performance while maintaining students’ interest in attending school. Fifty-one girls at Chibanzi Community Day Secondary School received these benefits through ISEM’s provision of bicycles. In the Golong’ozi Community Day Secondary School, the program has helped 177 girls who, thanks to this project, are able to continue their secondary education.

ASPIRE Project

Save the Children created the Girls’ Empowerment through Education and Health Activity (ASPIRE) project in 2015 with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In Malawi, the ASPIRE project seeks to improve literacy levels and reduce school dropout rates while improving school enrollment rates for girls in Malawi. ASPIRE achieves this by teaching mothers the importance of girls’ education. By doing this, mothers prioritize girls’ education more and are less likely to force their daughters into early marriages. Mothers are also then more likely to encourage girls to go back to school after pregnancy. Data shows that, in 2015 and 2016, 786 students re-enrolled in schools in three particular districts that the ASPIRE project covered, “suggesting an impact from the ASPIRE project.” Female students accounted for 504 of these students.

Education is not only a fundamental right but is also a proven pathway out of poverty. For this reason, several organizations are committing to improving school enrollment rates for girls in Malawi, recognizing that education is the basis of global development and gender equality.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Flickr

Vitamin A Deficiency in Malawi
Economic crises and instability can impact nutrition as impoverished populations are unable to access and afford nutritious foods for a well-balanced diet. Instead, these individuals opt for food sources with the lowest price tag, which leads to “diets of lesser quality and variety.” For this reason, vitamin A deficiencies are most common among low-income communities. In the developing nation of Malawi, micronutrient deficiencies are not uncommon. However, the country’s government is implementing measures to reduce vitamin A deficiency in Malawi.

Vitamin A Deficiency in Malawi

The best way for individuals to get the necessary amount of vitamin A is by eating a balanced diet consisting of all of the food groups. Insufficient levels of vitamin A in children can cause delayed growth, slow wound healing, infections and more. In 2001, 59% of Malawian children younger than the age of 5 suffered a vitamin A deficiency.

According to a 2020 research study that ScienceDirect published, vitamin A deficiency is “more severe in developing countries whose population relies on a single staple crop for their sustenance,” which are often low in vitamin A. According to Nature Briefing, maize is Malawi’s “most widely grown crop,” taking up 80% of Malawi’s arable land as the country’s staple crop. Although maize plays a significant role in the food security of Malawians, it has low levels of vitamin A, making it easy to recognize the need to increase access to vitamin A-rich food products.

Effects of Vitamin A Deficiency on Economies

WHO has reported that 1.4% of annual deaths occur due to vitamin A deficiency, leading to a loss of human capital that greatly impacts economies. In addition, many deficiencies of micronutrients can cause lower levels of productivity in working individuals, creating another economic impact. Research shows that in many cases, reintroducing the micronutrient into the individual’s diet can reverse these effects.

Furthermore, the conditions that arise from vitamin A deficiencies increase the burden of disease on a health care system, taking a significant toll on the health systems of developing nations. These nations often lack the resources, infrastructure and personnel to take on this added strain.

In Tanzania, annually, “deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and folic acid cost the country [more than] US$518 million, around 2.65 % of the country’s GDP.” Although similar data on Malawi is scarce, it is clear that micronutrient deficiencies have a significant economic impact on developing nations.

The Fortification of Sugar

Since 2012, with the assistance of the government of Malawi, Illovo Sugar Malawi, a sugar manufacturing company, began a program to fortify vitamin A into sugar products. In 2016 alone, Illovo Sugar Malawi spent ZAR 21 million on fortifying sugar with vitamin A, which reached 2 million individuals. The incorporation of the essential nutrient into accessible foods makes it easier for families to ensure they are getting a sufficient amount of vitamin A in their diets without the country needing to grow multiple extra crops.

Other Measures to Address Vitamin A Deficiency in Malawi

The Malawian government is also ramping up efforts to reduce vitamin A deficiency through screening services. Through blood tests, specialists are able to determine if an individual has too much or too little vitamin A in their system. With this kind of information, health care professionals can address cases of low vitamin A in citizens before the condition exacerbates.

Because illnesses and infections can lead to the depletion of vitamin A in the body, disease control practices are imperative. Because of this, the Malawian government is encouraging the public to practice good hygiene. The government is also prioritizing access to clean water and adequate sanitation as a disease prevention method.

Through these actions, Malawi was able to reduce the prevalence of vitamin A deficiencies in children younger than 5 from 59% in 2001 to 4% by 2016. The Malawian government’s efforts to reduce vitamin A deficiency in the country hold more than just physical health benefits. By treating vitamin A deficiency, the nation may potentially see economic benefits too, which will help Malawi’s disadvantaged people to rise out of poverty. Through further work and preventative measures, the country will continue to reduce vitamin A deficiencies in its citizens.

– Katelyn Rogers
Photo: Wikipedia Commons