The need for developing education in Malawi is continual. For example, in 2010, around 10 percent of primary aged children were not in school, and the primary school repetition rate reported in at 24 percent for boys and 29 percent for girls.

Girls in Malawi are exceptionally more vulnerable to a lack of education than boys. In fact, 32 percent of girls aged 14 to 17 are not in school compared to 23 percent of boys this age. Additionally, while 72 percent of boys 15 and older are literate, only 51 percent of women in this age group can read and write.

Part of this gap is caused by the high child marriage rate in Malawi, which is 11th highest in the world. UNICEF reports that approximately 50 percent of Malawian girls marry before they turn 18. Fortunately, this year the Malawian government moved to make marriage legal only after a woman is 18 years old.

Marshall Dyson, founder of the Girl Child Education Movement, is one of many Malawians who recognizes the need for resolution of the educational gender disparity. Dyson’s idea incorporated broadcasting an open discussion of child marriage and girls’ education over the radio. Both men and women of a variety of ages and backgrounds participated in the talk.

The discussion about girls’ education in Malawi broadcasted over Radio Islam, the only Islamic radio station in Malawi. Dyson strategically chose this platform since Muslims rested at risk of discrimination.

Dyson got his start in radio via an internship with Kumakomo Community Radio Station in Zimbabwe. There he served as the content manager of 12 volunteers.

The impact of this position is especially significant, considering that radio acts as the main source of news for most Malawians. According to USAID, the two-hour broadcast “was a collaboration across the YALI and Mandela Washington Fellows networks, and with Regional Leadership Center participants — young leaders between 18 and 35 enrolled in USAID-supported leadership training programs in sub-Saharan Africa.” Around three million people tuned in.

USAID states that “the Muslim Association of Malawi, who attended the event, agreed to open new offices in rural areas where communities can access up-to-date information about education and scholarship opportunities for girls.”

Education in Malawi still has much room for improvement, and humanitarians like Marshall Dyson act as major catalysts in that process. Through work such as his, Malawi is destined to achieve higher standards of education than ever before.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr

Rihanna's Charity Work Fighting Poverty in Malawi
In January 2017, Rihanna visited Malawi on behalf of her foundation, the Clara Lionel Foundation. She also journeyed as a global ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education.

During her stay, Rihanna, accompanied by former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, hoped to learn more about the challenges regarding health and education in Malawi. Global Citizen uploaded a short film documenting Rihanna’s charity work. The film depicts the poverty, hunger, poor education and the lack of many basic human rights that many children face in Malawi. In addition to interacting with children, Rihanna also discussed future improvement strategies with key political leaders.

The situation regarding education in Malawi requires immediate action. This documentary and Rihanna’s charity work helped bring attention to the severity of conditions in Malawi. According to a World Bank survey, one in two Malawians live in poverty, making it the country’s most pressing issue.

Currently, the fight against poverty in Malawi has experienced little progress in the past decade. Like many impoverished countries, the rural regions of Malawi are the most heavily impacted. The issue is primarily due to volatile economic conditions, natural disasters and poor performance in the agricultural sector. The World Bank has suggested that one possible solution could be investing in secondary education for women.

These issues regarding poverty and education have a particularly profound impact on young Malawian women. Rihanna’s charity work, as shown in the documentary, addresses how issues such as poor public infrastructure put young women in danger while walking to school. In addition, cultural practices such as arranged marriages deter women from pursuing education.

Rihanna’s charity work in Malawi attempts to increase global awareness of these issues while creating connections with key leaders. The Global Partnership for Education has raised funds for global education, and in past years has focused specifically on “inclusive, equitable quality education for all by 2030.” In fact, the organization hopes to raise $3.1 billion for over 870 million children in 89 countries between 2018 and 2020. Partnering with Rihanna allowed them to combine these goals with the singer’s interest in education for girls and arts education.

In years past, Rihanna has used her fame to further her charity work. As a champion for women’s rights and access to arts and education, Rihanna established the Clara Lionel Foundation in 2012. The nonprofit fights to “improve the quality of life for communities globally in the areas of health, education, arts and culture.” The foundation creates scholarships, partners with various corporations, holds fundraising events and does much more in an effort to provide these areas with the resources they need.

Julia Morrison

Photo: Flickr

Situated in southeastern Africa, Malawi is landlocked between Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. Over the last few decades, this largely agrarian nation experienced turbulent times. Despite inflation, corruption, HIV/AIDS and underdevelopment, Malawians are tenacious and remain incredibly friendly people. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Malawi:

  1. There are two camps for refugees in Malawi: Luwani (in the south) and Dzaleka (to the north). Luwani was reopened by the Malawian government in March 2016 to cope with refugees from Mozambique in the wake of conflicts between the government and opposition groups.
  2. At the end of March of this year, 3,073 Mozambican nationals who fled the Tete Province resided in the southern Luwani camp, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This was a reduction of 382 refugees in Malawi from the end of February.
  3. The Dzaleka encampment, near Malawi’s capital Lilongwe, houses refugees and asylum-seekers from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Somalia. Most stay a few weeks before heading to South Africa.
  4. In a March 2017 press release, the UNHCR officially claimed the “Dzaleka refugee camp, originally built for a population of some 9,000 people now has more than tripled in size to nearly 28,000 people.”
  5. According to Monique Ekoko, UNHCR’s Representative to Malawi, “The new arrivals of refugees in Malawi has been at a steady rate of between 400 to 700 people per month over the past two years.”
  6. More than one million Mozambican refugees fled to the Luwani Camp during the nation’s civil war from 1977 to 1992.
  7. Due to weather-related events, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) suggests that 39 percent of the population (6,491,847 people out of a total population of 16,832,910) will not receive the minimum food requirement for 2016 and 2017. This is an increase of 129 percent since the previous year, a fact which makes it difficult to feed increasing numbers of refugees in Malawi.
  8. Mozambican officials pressure the Malawian government to refrain from recognizing every individual who crosses the nation’s borders as a refugee.
  9. Malaria, water shortages, dwindling food rations and respiratory infections are rampant in the encampments. Without proper funding, these and many other problems will persist.
  10. The Dzaleka camp’s health center serves a combination of 65,000 refugees and Malawians. Nearly 60 percent of the individuals cared for are Malawians.

The pressing problem of food insecurity – due to unpredictable weather and rising food prices – will be a major hurdle in the region’s recovery. Among its key planning figures for 2017, the U.N. expects to distribute an average of 2,100 calories to each refugee in Malawi and construct 920 latrines in the Dzaleka camp to meet sanitation standards. To reach long-term goals of peace and security, the UNHCR cites a 30 percent primary school enrollment figure for refugee children. With help of the international community, these activities should improve the lives of individuals in Malawi and promote regional prosperity.

JG Federman

Photo: Flickr

Women’s HealthAccording to data from Trading Economics, Malawi’s GDP in 2015 totaled $6.57 billion, or 0.01 percent of the global economy. The highest influxes of extremely impoverished Malawians are concentrated in rural areas and face a constant struggle when conceptualizing economic development from agricultural practices.

Established in 1993, the Malawi Children’s Fund has initiated and supported youth in Malawi by developing initiatives that facilitate entrepreneurial, educational and medical facilities. The Green Malata Entrepreneurial Village, one of the fund’s centers for development, provides children with courses in subjects such as renewable energy and information technology, in addition to a tailoring program that manufactures reusable Malawian sanitary pads.

Women and children studying tailoring also construct reusable pads that are then combined into “The School Girl Pack,” consisting of three pads and a pair of underwear, which is then sold for $3.50. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that one in 10 school-aged girls in Africa drop out of school or miss class due to their period. Skills development programs established by the entrepreneurial village are not only providing personal development of individual’s trade abilities but also ensuring a better quality of life for women and children in Malawi.

Access to quality female hygiene products is also vital to beneficial health practices to prevent malfunctions such as leaking, which spreads infection and subsequent sores and rashes. Other organizations such as AFRIpads, locally headquartered in Uganda, distribute sanitary pads to women in dire need of reliable assistance.

The Malawian sanitary pads initiative has also committed to participation in Project 50/50, a trans-regional campaign that aims to facilitate greater political representation of women, as outlined in 2008 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development. On location, training events are held to empower and educate women to become leaders in local and national government.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Child Undernutrition
Malawi is a country in southeast Africa with a population of more than 17 million people. Of those, 6.5 million require food assistance. In southern Africa, it is the country with the largest number of people facing extreme hunger. But for the people who live there, the problem of child undernutrition is a larger issue than the reality of daily life without enough food.

The African Union, with the support of the U.N.’s Economic Commission for Africa and the World Food Program (WFP), conducted a Cost of Hunger Study, which included Malawi. It detailed the social and economic costs of child undernutrition in Malawi, specifically, its impact on health, education and the national economy.

According to the study, “When a child is undernourished, the negative consequences follow that child for his or her entire life.” Child undernutrition includes low weight-for-height, low height-for-age and low weight-for-age. The negative consequences consist of higher morbidity and mortality rates, which can create costs for families as well as the healthcare industry. The WFP indicates that “Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to health worldwide – greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.”

Increases in morbidity and mortality rates caused by undernutrition also account for a reduction in the number of people who are available to work in Malawi. The study estimated that in 2012, 10.7 percent of the workforce was missing due to increased mortality rates caused by undernutrition. This equaled 800,566 people who were either lost from or did not become part of the nation’s workforce.

There is also an impact on the outcomes in education. Malnourished children have lower attention spans and learning capacities, which often results in the need to repeat grade levels. This can lead to completing fewer years of school, and will directly impact how productive children will be as adults. It considerably inhibits children’s abilities to reach their full potential. As stated in the results of the study, “National productivity is significantly affected by historical rates of child undernutrition.”

The cost of hunger in Malawi is significant, but there are things that are being done to improve the country’s situation. The WFP’s ShareTheMeal app enables users to donate as little as 50 cents, which will feed a child in Malawi for one day.

The organization also recently imported 55,000 metric tons of maize into Malawi to aid the 4.7 million people who live in drought-affected areas. However, there is more that is still needed to ensure that the negative consequences of hunger do not continue in Malawi.

Kristin Westad

Photo: Flickr

Mining in Malawi: Understanding the Conflict
The relationship between the mining industry and the country of Malawi is burdened with complexity. Mining in Malawi promises substantial economic growth, yet it simultaneously has the potential to violate human rights and destroy the natural ecosystem.

Malawi profits through the mining industry, as the country is rich in economic deposits of uranium. Both Malawian granite and sandstone host uranium reserves, such as the Karoo sandstone in Karonga, Malawi.

The district of Karonga lies on the northwest side of Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is one of the only freshwater lakes on the entire continent of Africa and is a key source of livelihood for over 1.5 million Malawians.

While clearly rich in resources, the country itself is impoverished. Due to this, the government has signed many agreements with extraction companies, hoping to increase exports.

Some national organizations are concerned about the mining industry’s effect on the precious and fragile ecosystem of Lake Malawi, yet the government has prioritized economic interests.

In 2007, a subsidiary of Paladin Energy took interest in Karonga due to a uranium deposit in the district. Due to the immense economic potential of the mine, called Kayelekera, the government agreed to let Paladin extract uranium in 2009. The government was issued 15 percent equity in the subsidiary.

As expected, the mine stimulated a crucial boost to the country’s foreign currency account. Over the following 10 years, the uranium industry overall is expected to raise Malawi’s GDP by 10 percent, account for 30 percent of exports and increase exports by 25 percent.

Due to company promises, many people in Malawi flocked to Karonga, hoping the uranium industry would generate employment, build clinics and increase general infrastructure in the new mining community.

Others, however, were not adequately informed that uranium mining was going to take place around their homes. None were aware that the Kayelekera mine would disrupt their entire way of life.

Reporters from Human Rights Watch conducted research for a year in Karonga, interviewing nearly 80 villagers who had been affected by uranium mining. They found that the general lack of government oversight and corporate responsibility harmed Malawians.

The construction of the Kayelekera mine caused villagers to be evicted from their homes. Many were only notified of the relocation at the last minute. Without any time to find other places to stay, these Malawians found themselves temporarily homeless.

While Paladin did offer compensation for the forced removal, the sum was insufficient to completely cover the cost of buying new land and building a new home. The company offered about MWK 50,000 to each family, which currently equates to about $70.

The uranium mining in Malawi damaged maize crops, dried rice fields and destroyed irrigation channels. As most of the villagers around Karonga live off of subsistence farming, threatened agriculture endangers survival.

Secrecy around the operations of the mine led to Malawian suspicion. When the people in Karonga asked the corporation to test the water for contamination, Paladin claimed to have a monitoring system in place. The company then refused to release any results. This lack of transparency has left many villagers concerned for their health.

As the laws surrounding mining in Malawi have not been updated since the Environmental Management Act of 1996, amendments are well overdue. In order to protect the interests of its citizens, the government of Malawi needs to strengthen regulations over extractive corporations, educate its people about the risks of mining, enforce institutional transparency and take measures to mitigate any damage.

The Kayelekera mine was closed in 2014 for repairs, yet the uranium industry in Malawi is just beginning. Moving forward, the Malawian government needs to enforce corporate responsibility on all companies who wish to extract natural resources from their country.

This conflict over mining in Malawi ignites fundamental questions over the delicate balance between economic development and social responsibility. With a more comprehensive legal framework, the government of Malawi may not have to choose one or the other. After further reform, the government can protect its people while simultaneously fostering social, institutional and economic development.

Larkin Smith

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MalawiMalawi is a landlocked African country that is bordered by Tanzania to the northeast, Mozambique to the south and Zambia to the west. The impact of poverty in Malawi can be seen prominently in the agriculture sector.

Malawi ranks 160 out of the existing 182 sovereign nations on the Human Development Index and is currently one of the world’s poorest nations. Nearly three-fourths of the population lives on less than a $1.25 a day, and approximately 90% live on less than $2 a day.

Agriculture makes up 35% of Malawi’s gross domestic product (GDP), and nearly 85% of Malawians are employed in the agricultural sector.

Maize is typically grown for local markets; small-scale farmers typically grow various fruits and vegetables such as pineapples, guava, mangoes, lemons, green peppers, cabbage, cucumbers and eggplants.

Agricultural growth in Malawi is often limited and difficult to effectively sustain due to reoccurring droughts in the region. Nearly 80% of Malawians are smallholder farmers who rely on their crops to feed their families and communities.

Malawi experiences extreme weather conditions — periods of drought and flooding — that contribute to widespread famine and destroyed infrastructure.

USAID reports that they are currently developing the National Nutrition Policy and Strategic Plan that is closely related to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) plan, and the Agriculture Sector-Wide Approach to promote agriculture and address food insecurity at the national and local levels to reduce poverty in Malawi.

Feed the Future, USAID reports, is working closely with the Malawian government to devise policies to promote agricultural sustainability, improve access to food and invest in crops such as legumes and dairy that would expand domestic and export markets for Malawi to help their economy prosper.

Through the Feed the Future initiative, USAID helped trained farmers on better farming techniques to increase productivity and provided financial and marketing services to farmers as well. USAID reported that they are committed to promoting private sector development by strengthening government institutional capacity that will accelerate long-lasting agricultural sustainability.

Since the beginning of the initiative, milk productivity has substantially increased by 52%. USAID has also succeeded in organized 23,000 Malawians from rural villages into savings-and-loans groups. Adding to that success, USAID trained 60,000 farmers on new agricultural technologies and techniques that would improve irrigation and crop harvesting.

The Feed the Future initiative aims to improve the vulnerability of rural smallholder farmers to help them escape poverty and hunger. Also, they plan to impact the lives of 293,000 children in helping to provide better nutrition to reverse growth stunting and prevent infant mortality.

Economic issues and food shortage issues have historically affected the poverty in Malawi; however, the successful partnership between the Feed the Future initiative and the Malawian government continues to improve agricultural techniques, farming technologies and promote food security for impoverished communities.

Haylee Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Family Planning Initiatives in Malawi Help to Stop Population Growth
Malawi is a small, landlocked country, in southeastern Africa, with a population that is expected to triple in the next 30 years. This reality, along with the fact that it remains one of the poorest countries in the world, has led Malawi’s political leaders and health care industry to dedicate time and money into implementing comprehensive access to family planning services (FP). Family planning is defined as a deliberate use of contraceptive methods by a couple in order to limit or space out the number of children that they have.

Through increased service delivery resources, political commitment, improved financial means and communication with receptive communities, Malawians now have more acceptable and affordable options regarding FP services than they did several years ago. The 2015-2016 Demographic and Health Survey reported that 59% of married women were using modern methods of contraception. This compares to only 28% in 2004.

Recognizing that the demand for FP was growing consistently, political commitment to stopping population growth began to reflect in core national policies in the mid-2000’s. The National Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Policy of 2009 provided a framework for the delivery of all-inclusive services and encouraged access to information and improved quality of care.

The government of Malawi also recognizes that improvements in sexual and reproductive health correlate directly to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Three areas, in particular, relate: the improvement of maternal health, promotion of women’s empowerment and reduction of child mortality.

In regards to finances, multiple international organizations have contributed heavily to the development of FP services. Financial resources have been put directly into two programs. The first with a goal of establishing and making accessible an Essential Health Package, which includes FP, available for free to all Malawians. The second is working to implement an Emergency Human Resources Program, which focuses on training and deploying certified health professionals.

With the help of these programs, the total health provider density in Malawi increased significantly from 2004 to 2009. Those advocating for FP in Malawi recognize that with most Malawian’s living in rural areas, it is important to bring services and information directly to the people. Awareness of this need is what has allowed for the success of FP in the country.

A culture of acceptance when it comes to the use of modern contraceptives has been indoctrinated in Malawi at a community level. The government of Malawi has made a concentrated effort to emphasize the benefits of FP. Not only does access to FP services increase a woman’s health and economic opportunities, it also goes hand in hand with preventing unplanned births and unsafe abortions, both of which are a common occurrence throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

The efforts of Malawi’s Government have allowed for substantial strides in family planning. In the past several decades, their commitment has helped tremendously to normalize the use of modern contraceptives and for equitable access to sexual and reproductive health services across the country.

Peyton Jacobsen

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Malawi
Malawi’s Ministry of Health states that their current overall policies are meant to focus on: “the development of a sound delivery system capable of promoting health, preventing, reducing and curing diseases, protecting life and fostering general well-being and increased productivity.” In recent years, the country has made substantial advancements in the field of medicine in terms of addressing their most pressing health issues, namely the top diseases in Malawi.

Infant and child mortality have been declining, and HIV rates among citizens have begun to level out. Despite having made progress, Malawi continues to be characterized by the burden of high infectious disease rates. The average life expectancy of a person living in Malawi is 57 years for males, and 58 years for females, making it the country with the twentieth lowest life expectancy in the world. However, the five top diseases in Malawi are all either preventable or treatable with basic medical care.

HIV/AIDS: 27% of deaths

Malawi is making impressive strides in combating their HIV epidemic, specifically in the prevention of mother to child transmission of the disease. However, Malawi’s HIV presence is still one of the highest in the world. It is home to roughly four percent of all people with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.

As of 2015, 10.3% of the population was living with HIV or AIDS; 9.3% of these people were between the ages of 15 and 49 years. That averages to around 980,000 people. The disease disproportionately affects females in Malawi, with an average of 4.5% of young females, and 2.7% of young men from 15 to 24 years living with HIV.

It is estimated that only 61% of all infected adults are on antiretroviral treatment. This epidemic, which killed 48,000 people in 2013 alone, is largely responsible for Malawi’s low life expectancy of 57.5 years.

Lower Respiratory Infections: nine percent of deaths

Lower respiratory problems have topped the charts as a reason for hospital admission in Malawi prior to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Lower respiratory infections cover everything from pneumonia to bronchitis, and Malawi has seen an increase in these infections particularly in its citizens with the HIV virus.

Pneumonia is the single biggest killer of children in Malawi, prematurely ending the lives of an estimated 1,000 infants in 2010 alone.

Malaria: six percent of deaths

Despite progress, malaria continues to be one of the top diseases in Malawi. Malaria is responsible for nearly 40% of hospitalizations in children under the age of 5, 30% of all outpatient visits and is one of the highest causes of mortality in all age groups.

Transmission of the disease occurs mostly from November to April, during Malawi’s rainy season. However, with global support, the Ministry of Health’s National Malaria Control Program in Malawi has been able to distribute treatment more easily throughout the population.

Since efforts were put in place in 2004, the mortality rate for children 5 years and younger has fallen by more than 36%. This is largely due to Malawi introducing the pneumococcal vaccine as part of routine childhood vaccination in November 2011, and the additional rotavirus vaccine in October 2012. Malawi is one of the four countries in the African Region that offers these vaccinations.

Diarrheal Disease: five percent of deaths

Diarrheal disease poses a serious threat, particularly to 5% of the children of Malawi, as it claims nearly 600 lives of Malawian children per year. Support from such initiatives as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the GAVI Alliance has given us an opportunity to offer those in Malawi protection from diarrheal diseases.

More lives could be saved through basic interventions, such as improving drinking water, increasing sanitation efforts and distributing a simple solution of oral rehydration salts and zinc supplements during bouts of diarrhea.

Perinatal Conditions: three percent of deaths

Perinatal conditions are any conditions existing in a baby before or immediately after birth. These conditions often stem from preexisting conditions in the mother, and are more easily prevented than treated. Solutions posed for this problem include better sex education for women, easier access to contraceptives — only 41% of Malawian women showed an understanding of preventative measures for sexually transmitted diseases in 2015 — and more accessible treatments for diseases such as HIV and malaria.

Currently, Malawi faces problems in addressing many of their health issues with regard to domestic funding and external stigma against the country. However, Malawi is committed to addressing the challenges of the top diseases in Malawi at the national level with cooperation and innovation in order to have a lasting impact.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr

The World Food Program (WFP) is the world’s largest organization dedicated to fighting hunger and promoting food security. As a branch of the U.N. the WFP is funded solely through voluntary donations which allow the organization to reach around 80 million people annually in 80 countries.

Though the WFP has a strong impact on the battle against world hunger, over 795 million people remain undernourished globally. Often people in developing countries become undernourished when faced with external factors like natural disasters or political instability. These factors can cause entire communities to lose access to necessities like food and water.

Currently, southern Africa is experiencing drought due to the year’s El Nino weather pattern — it is believed that Malawi was hit the hardest of the countries affected. The drought coupled with severe flash floods has devastated the country’s crops.

Up to 40 percent of the population of Malawi may need emergency assistance. In an attempt to provide food relief to vulnerable populations like those in Malawi, the WFP created an app called ShareTheMeal.

ShareTheMeal allows users to help those in need with the touch of a button. By choosing to share a meal, users donate 50 cents, the cost to feed one child for one day, to school children in Malawi. Of course, more than one meal can be donated at a time, but allowing users to donate as little as 50 cents makes food relief an affordable act for all.

At this time, WFP is focusing ShareTheMeal towards food relief in Malawi, but the app has been used to help several other vulnerable communities since its inception in the summer of 2015. In fact, the ShareTheMeal website states that donations on the app have provided over 7.5 million meals to those in need.

Recently, between June and July of 2016, all donations on the app went to feeding Syrian refugee children in Lebanon. The donations from those two months were enough to provide one year worth of food to 1,500 children.

While these numbers may seem impressive, the WFP is setting the bar even higher for relief in Malawi. Through ShareTheMeal, the WFP’s goal is to provide 58,000 school children with food for an entire year. If the goal is reached, those 58,000 children will have better chances of staying in school and learning the essential skills that could one day lift them out of poverty.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr