Water Quality in MalawiClean water is something that is often taken for granted, but certainly not in Malawi. In the last two years, UNICEF helped nearly 50,000 people gain access to improved water supply and produced 500 water points, with the new goal to serve an additional 125,000 people with safe water in 2016. Though overall water quality in Malawi has improved significantly, there is still so much more that can be done.

  1. Many water hand pumps are inoperative, leaving people with no choice but to go back to unsafe water sources. Poor sanitation practices and improper storage of drinking water often lead to waterborne illnesses like cholera. WaterAid is one organization making a difference and supporting the marginalized communities of Malawi by repairing broken wells and handpumps. Showing users how to maintain their own facilities ensures that safe water will be available close to homes year round.
  2. The lack of access to safe water in Malawi has taken a toll on cultivation and increased hunger. A steady water supply is essential to growing enough food to eat, but the extreme weather and pollution where the majority of people in Malawi live make farming difficult. In addition to wells and handpumps, WaterAid also builds simple composting latrines, which help keep water sources clean and provide fertilizer for crops.
  3. According to the USAID Fact Sheet, approximately 4 million people still lack access to safe water. Likewise, 10 million people lack access to adequate sanitation in Malawi. Clean water is essential for a healthy population. Clean Water for Malawi (CWFM) works to provide this basic necessity by drilling water wells in small villages. CWFM has built 402 wells in Malawi since 2010, with each well supplying enough clean water for up to 350 – 500 people.
  4. Lack of access to clean water causes disease and death in Malawi. Approximately 30,000 people die every year in Malawi from issues caused by dirty water, namely diarrhea, dysentery, parasitic infections and food and water-borne illnesses.
  5. Studies show that schools that do not have working toilets or water discourage children from attending and completing their education. In 2007, UNICEF fixed 39 school water points, bringing safe water to 23,000 school children. Public communication strategies regarding hygiene promotion also help to educate individuals in Malawi on the proper use and safe handling of water and sanitation facilities.

With poor water quality in Malawi having such a heavy impact on the lives of locals, organizations like UNICEF, WaterAid and USAID are applauded for their generous contributions.

Making the issue a priority and taking direct action has saved thousands of lives and is hopefully a mindset that will carry on to further improve conditions in Malawi.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

Education in Malawi
While the availability of schooling has improved, education in Malawi is still hampered by many issues: insufficient funds, high student to teacher ratios, non-mandatory attendance and irregular attendance and high female dropout rates. Exams also act as a barrier to rather than a bridge towards continued schooling.

Schools are short-staffed, and class sizes of more than 100 children make teaching a tiring profession. In June 2016, the Malawi government was forced to rethink their funding for teachers after a teacher’s strike.

The Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development provided $16 million in funding to hire 10,500 primary school teachers and 466 secondary school teachers next year.

It is vital that the government invests in children’s education and values teachers. However, as CCTV Africa predicts, the Treasurer might have a difficult time procuring the funds promised without foreign aid.

This is a valid concern because the World Bank has decreased the amount it will spend on education in Malawi; it will spend $44.9 million on education in Malawi within the next four years, only half the amount of aid it gave in previous years.

The previous grant with contributions from Germany, UNICEF, IDA and DfID achieved a great deal in five years. Funds from the grant were used to construct 2,936 classrooms and boarding homes and produce 26 million textbooks.

It also provided more than 80,000 children money for school and allowed 23,550 teachers to be trained to initiate a distance learning program. The dispersal of the upcoming grant from the World Bank will be geared towards early education and education for women.

Education in Malawi is at a turning point. Basic needs and accommodations are met, however, the state must further consider the mental well-being of teachers and students.

Recent revisions of the 2016 academic calendar, released last summer, allots days for holidays and midterm breaks. This keeps morale up and gives students a break from their usually rigorous schedule. The Ministry of Education mandates that this schedule applies to both public and private schools, to ensure a healthy learning environment for all.

Another significant change to the secondary school curriculum will take place. The Junior Certificate of Education (JCE), a test used to gauge an individual’s readiness for the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MCSE), will begin to be phased out. Malawi education officials noted that the test had become an obstruction for young women, who are less likely to pass this test due to poor childhood education.

Thus, the ministry moved to drop the test and allow everyone to advance to Form 3 and 4. In these higher-level classes, female students will have 2 more years to study and prepare for the MCSE, and access a larger selection of classes. This will give more girls the opportunity to continue their educations and complete secondary school in a timely manner.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Malawi
Poverty in Malawi has been at critical levels for decades. Of the 15.9 million Malawians, about 12 million are living below the international poverty line ($1.25 a day) and approximately 14.3 million are living on less than $2.00 a day, according to the Rural Poverty Portal.

Many Malawians work in agriculture, and it is hard for them to produce enough crops to maintain an income above the international poverty line. With parental death, disease and crop failure, the obstacles that many Malawians face are abounding. Discussed below are the leading facts that thoroughly explain and illuminate the pressing issue of poverty in Malawi.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Malawi


  1. Over 90,000 Malawi individuals live with HIV/AIDS, which accounts for every one in ten adults.
  2. Only 65.8 percent of Malawi’s population can read and write by the age of 15, according to the CIA.
  3. Due to poverty, poor access to health care, disease and food shortage, the average life expectancy for a Malawian is 63 years, which is 25 years more than it was in 1960, according to The World Bank.
  4. There is only one doctor for every 50,000 individuals, according to the World Health Organization.
  5. Malawi’s economy is mainly agricultural, constituting 80% of the population living in rural areas.
  6. The median age for Malawians is 16.4 years old.
  7. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is working in harmony with Malawi’s government to promote agricultural growth in rural areas. This is an effort to reduce poverty throughout Malawi.
  8. About 30% of children in Malawi do not start primary school (which is free in Malawi). Secondary and higher education is mostly attended by those of households above the international poverty line, predominantly due to the enrollment fees.
  9. Malawi is one of the world’s most impoverished countries, ranking 173rd out of 182 countries on the Human Development Index.
  10. More than 1 million Malawi children are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS.

The people of Malawi face great hardships; however, with the help of NGOs like IFAD, there is hope for an increased economy and better school systems. This in turn will lead to a decrease in disease, orphaned children and overall poverty in Malawi.

Bella Chaffey

Photo: Flickr

The buildOn organization has been building schools globally and domestically for more than twenty years, but the construction of schools is not the only focus. The organization builds and develops the abilities of every member of the community in which the schools are placed.

In 1989, Jim Ziolkowski, a recent college graduate and the future founder and CEO of the buildOn organization, took a trip around the world by way of hitchhiking and backpacking. During his travels, he came across a village in Nepal that had recently built a school, and he noticed a dramatic difference between this community and others that he had visited in his travels. This Nepalese village had a unique brightness about it that was centered around education.

Upon returning to the United States he was unable to remove the comparison of what he had seen from his mind. After a short time, he quit his job and began to develop ways in which he could give the gift of education to those who would not be able to obtain it otherwise. In 1992, the first school was built in Malawi, and since then, hundreds of schools have been built in some of the most impoverished locations across the world.

The buildOn website notes, “Our holistic approach ensures that schools are built with a community rather than for a community. It involves villagers as true partners rather than as recipients of aid.” The program claims that this nature of approach incentivizes the residents, and shows them what can be accomplished when they work together in a common cause.

When a community is under consideration for a new school, each member is required to give his or her consensus in writing—or in fingerprint—that he or she will fulfill respective obligations to render local supplies, assist in construction and maintain the school upon completion. It has been observed that “Even as many must sign with a thumbprint, everyone is overjoyed to pledge their commitment to a school that will end illiteracy for their children, their grandchildren, and themselves.”

As mentioned, young children are not the only ones who benefit from the placement of these schools. At night, in the same schools where their children are educated by day, parents and grandparents are given the opportunity to engage in adult literacy classes. These classes address the issues of healthcare, poverty, and inequality, in addition to the fundamental teachings of reading, writing, and math. This is all gauged to help the people build a better life for themselves and their children.

Unfortunately, in many countries, women do not hold the same status as men. For this reason, buildOn places a centralized focus on gender equality. In the written covenant, there is an included agreement that boys and girls alike will be allowed to attend school in equal numbers. From the beginning to the end of each project, women are highlighted as key members of the community. The right to education is for everyone.

Though the construction of schools is the physical product of buildOn’s effort, it is not the ultimate focus. When asked as to what his favorite aspect of working for buildOn is, Badenoch answered by saying simply, “The people. Unlocking opportunity for people who are very capable and intelligent. The key players aren’t our staff, rather the people in the community play the major role.”

Preston Rust

Photo: Flickr

KINDMillions of children throughout Africa struggle to learn while sitting on dirt floors or the ground outside for hours at a time. In Malawi, three out of five students don’t have a desk or chair.

Since 2010, Kids In Need of Desks (KIND) has placed more than 148,755 desks in 575 primary schools in Malawi, providing actual workspaces to nearly half a million students who would otherwise be sitting on the floor. The fund has also provided over 718 scholarships to girls to complete all four years of high school.

KIND also benefits the Malawian community outside the classroom. Every desk made for Malawian children is manufactured locally. This has created numerous jobs for residents over the past five years.

The fund was created by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell after a 2010 service trip to the country. There, O’Donnell learned firsthand that the number one item Malawian school teachers said would best improve the lives of students was desks.

According to Malawian teacher Saulos Mzuwala, “In as far as education is concerned a learner is more comfortable sitting at desks than on floors. They use their knees as desks which leads to poor handwriting.”

Students too, complain about the difficulty of learning and practicing writing from this position. “We fold our legs when we’re sitting and when we try to write, our papers get damaged and that wastes a lot of our time. It’s distracting and makes it hard to do well in school,” says student Lajab Saidi.

On top of this, sitting on the floor makes their clothes dirty faster, says teacher Nema Samalira. “It’s hard for these kids to afford soap especially if they have to clean their clothes every day. If their clothes are dirty they don’t come to school.”

During that trip, O’Donnell connected with UNICEF and a Malawi woodworking shop. He paid for them to make 30 student desks. With three kids to every desk, that first delivery enabled 90 students to move from dirt floors to desks. This change happened within a single week. Now, five years later, the KIND fund has received more than $10.5 million in donations.

“Ten million dollars was beyond my wildest dream when I started KIND with UNICEF. I am in awe of the generosity of our audience. There are hundreds of thousands of students sitting at desks instead of on the floor today thanks entirely to our audience. There are girls in high school today thanks entirely to our audience. This is proof that small acts of kindness can make a big difference in our world,” says O’Donnell.

Kara Buckley

Sources: MSNBC, PR News Wire, UNICEF USA, Vimeo
Photo: MSNBC

Cooking to Produce Electricity in Malawi
Thermoelectric generators that use heat from clay stoves to produce electricity are becoming a popular tool in Malawi where efforts are being made to protect the environment.

Developed with the help of Irish Aid, the thermoelectric generator also provides an affordable option for Malawians to access electricity from a clean energy source.

The device is bolted to a clay cooking stove and uses the heat from everyday cooking to charge devices such as phones, LED lights and radios. The electrical current is created by the differential in temperature between two metal parts.

Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world. Fewer than one out of every 100 rural people have access to grid electricity and more than 85 percent of people live in rural areas.

Aidan Fitzpatrick, Head of Development at Irish Aid, said, “At the very best by 2025, only 20 percent of the population will have grid electricity, so there will still be a huge need to find energy solutions for the majority of Malawians.”

The Irish aid group worked to create a device that would be easy to use for people and could use while cooking to create electricity. The group focused on a generator that would create and sustain community jobs.

A thermal engineering research group joined with Concern Universal and Irish Aid in Malawi to design an electricity generator that could fit on a clay stove, which are already in use as part of the government’s plan to produce two million clean stoves by 2020.

The group decided to use a trial-and-error design process because there are already many innovative solutions to produce electricity.

According to lead engineer, Professor Tony Robinson, “We needed to design something to withstand an extreme environment, requiring no training or maintenance so people can plug in their phone or light while they’re cooking and get on with their lives without having to go search for firewood every day. On top of that, it had to be cheaply produced in Malawi with locally available materials.”

The generators will eventually be made locally for around 20 euros. Many families in Malawi will be able to purchase the generators through microfinance options.

Concern Universal Project Manager, Blessings Kambombo, said; “Once it is rolled out, it will make a huge difference to rural communities not only by improving their quality of life but providing business opportunities and therefore choices.”

Jordan Connell

Sources: BBC News, The Irish Times
Photo: Flickr

saving Premature Babies
Malawi has the highest percentage of pre-term births in the world at more than 18 percent of live births. Pre-term babies are those who are delivered at less than 37 weeks of gestation. Complications that arise from such an early birth are the leading cause of death for children less than 5 years old. Nearly 1 million children died of preterm birth complications in 2013.

According to the World Health Organization, “Malawi faces a number of challenges including inadequate finances to support poverty reduction programmes; high levels of illiteracy; and critical shortage of capacity in institutions implementing development programmes.”

As a low-income country, Malawi is lacking in quality medical care for pre-term babies. However, the care available for pre-term babies is improving. The decrease in child mortality rate has the country as the first of its neighbors to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 4, a goal set by the United Nations to decrease the number of under-five child mortalities by two-thirds.

The Malawian government recently initiated the Every Newborn Action Plan in 2014, with a commitment to reduce the chances of neonatal mortality from 31 out of 1,000 to 25 out of 1,000 by the year 2020.

One of the low-cost ways pre-term babies in Malawi have been cared for recently has been through the Kangaroo Mother Care intervention plan. This method incorporates the skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby to keep the baby warm and breastfed. This helps monitor the baby’s temperature and encourages rapid weight gain, which is crucial for the baby’s health.

There are more than 120 Kangaroo Mother Care units in Malawi and at least one in each district. Kangaroo Mother Care is especially effective in low-income countries such as Malawi when incubators are hard to come by and are extremely expensive.

Another cost-effective solution for pre-term complications is the bubble continuous positive airway pressure device designed by engineering students at Rice University, Texas.

The device is called Pumani, a word meaning breathe in Chichewa, a Malawian language. It is used to help pre-term babies whose lungs have not yet fully developed and has saved more than 1,000 pre-term babies since 2006.

With the implementation of these low-cost methods to care for pre-term babies, pre-term babies in Malawi have a better chance of survival than ever before.

Iona Brannon

Sources: World Health Organization 1, World Health Organization 2, World Health Organization 3, Healthy Newborn Network 1, Healthy Newborn Network 2
Photo: Pexels

Malawi is ranked as the poorest country in the world according to GDP per capita. However, Malawi does not just consist of poverty. Below are seven facts that shed light on Malawi:

  1. It was the first country in Africa to sell tea commercially. Tea was brought to Malawi and planted there in 1878. It is now the second largest tea producer in Africa after Kenya.
  2. Malawi was the first country outside of Denmark to have a Carlsberg beer brewery. The Carlsberg Malawi Brewery Limited opened in 1968 as the first Carlberg brewery outside of Denmark. It is also the official beer of the Malawi National Football Team.
  3. Roughly one-fifth of Malawi’s land is occupied by Lake Malawi. Malawi is 45, 745 square miles and Lake Malawi takes up 11,429 square miles of that land.
  4. Lake Malawi has more species of fish than any other lake in the world. Lake Malawi has more than 1,000 species of fish within the lake.
  5. Malawi is called the warm heart of Africa. The country was nicknamed the warm heart of Africa because of its warm culture and friendly people.
  6. The country was once called Nyasaland. Malawi was Nyasaland under the British protectorate and declared itself independent in 1964 as Malawi.
  7. Malawi’s economy is the most tobacco-dependent economy in the world. Approximately 53 percent of Malawi’s exports come from tobacco products. More than 80 percent of the people of Malawi are involved in the tobacco industry.

Iona Brannon

Sources: Al Jazeera, Carlsberg Group, Encyclopedia of Earth, Fair Trade, Global Finance Magazine, InterPress Service News, Mail and Guardian Africa, US National Library of Medicine

Photo: Flickr

Malawi: Education Over Marriage
A minute is all it takes for 28 young girls around the world to be married off as child brides, adding up to 15 million underage brides per year. One of the main reasons for young marriage is to relieve the bride’s family of having to support her, which some struggle to do. As a result, the cycle of poverty continues with those girls having to abandon school and years later, their own underage daughters get married.

A child’s place is at school learning, making friends and playing. They are usually emotionally and physically unprepared for marriage, making them susceptible to domestic abuse and life-threatening pregnancies and births.

Until Feb. 2015, Malawi had one of the highest rates of child marriage, with 50 percent of girls being married before the age of 18. This changed in Feb. 2015, when President Peter Mutharika signed a law raising the marriage age from 15 to 18. To show the commitment to enforcing the law, 300 child marriages were annulled and kids were sent back to school earlier this month. Despite the progress, there is a loophole where parents can provide consent for 16-year-old girls to marry.

The fight to pass this law has been a process with Malawi’s Stop Child Marriage campaign beginning in 2011 by Girls Empowerment Network (Genet) and Let Girls Lead. They trained 200 girls in the Chiradzulo District of southern Malawi to become advocates. The advocates lobbied 60 village chiefs to change laws and establish by-laws to protect teen girls from marriage and sexual initiation practices.

The bylaws force men who marry girls under 21 to give up land and pay a fee of seven goats, a major economic penalty in the region. The bylaws also imposed social sanctions such as three months of janitorial service in a local health clinic for parents who marry their underage daughters.

Genet had hoped the election of the first woman president, Joyce Banda, would raise the marriage age, but she didn’t. Then in 2014, when Peter Mutharika was elected, Genet advocated extensively with his minister of gender, Patricia Kaliati. Fortunately, President Mutharika believes in the empowerment of financially independent women and signed the law.

Although it is difficult to break cultural beliefs and traditions, especially in rural areas, progress is being made at the government level. The local education campaigns will play a key role in educating and spreading the word about the new law, especially in places where people may be less educated regarding the law.

One strong advocate, Memory Banda, 18, was able to finish school, but her younger sister wasn’t as lucky. Memory’s younger sister was married at 11 to a man in his early 30s. This led her to speak up and help in leading the campaign to pass the law. Memory’s sister is now 16 with three children. In March, Memory spoke at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women for herself, her sister and the 70 million girls married as kids.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: Global Citizen, The Guardian
Photo: Flickr

Early in 2015, Malawi witnessed severe flood damage. Recuperation efforts are trying to get citizens back on their feet in new areas after hindrances to national development. The U.K. government, Met Office, NASA and Google created a partnership with the U.S. in June 2015 in order to ground exponential tactics in Africa to prepare for natural disasters.

To protect outside countries from weather-related disasters, on June 9, 2015 organizations met in Washington, D.C. to access, with more depth and analysis, the forecast and climate of poor nations. U.K.’s Met Office houses top scientists in weather research. The Department for International Development (DFID) is working with African scientists, U.K. universities and the Met Office to help create the first continental climate plan.

The plan is to help in-country capabilities and strengthen resilience. This project will help farmers plan ahead when droughts, floods and other storms are predicted. Governments and communities need help to adapt to certain practices and learn valuable information to protect their food supply.

In 2011, the U.K. improved its foreign aid capabilities to respond to disasters such as Malawi’s flood. Its government launched a proposal to increase its goal to help those in need in a timely manner.

It helped to better countries’ resilience by supplying resources, delivering technological advancements and sending experts in science and medicine. The U.K. also encouraged militaristic involvement when responding and created partnerships with China, Brazil, the Gulf States and various charities.

In 2012, DIFD announced at the Rio+20 Earth Summit that it would be improving extra support of small scale farmers. Agricultural workers need to find ways to adapt to climate change, build storage units and create stronger crops.

The people of Malawi rely heavily on agriculture to survive. The flood destroyed 158,147 acres of farmland, and approximately 230,000 people were displaced after the storm. Crops were no longer usable, and homes were swept away.

Yet President Peter Mutharika predicted that US$51 million was needed to uplift the country to its former self. UNICEF had sent $9.3 million for an emergency response unit to instill clean water and sanitation amenities to fight disease.

The number of natural disasters has tripled in the past 30 years. Poor countries are especially vulnerable due to slow recovery after disaster strikes. Malawi’s flood closed roads, turned off power supplies and made going to school hazardous.

DIFD suggested that farmers need to construct much sturdier facilities to hold their food. The department understood that monitoring the weather was equally as important in order to prepare for disaster. Monitoring and reporting are essential in the process of preparing for change. The DFID hoped to benefit 6 million farms in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Google will also give one petabyte (or 1,000 terabytes) of Internet storage data housing satellite screenshots and weather analytics. All organizations under this new, life-saving mission have invested a total amount of $31 million. USAID is supplying $10 million, and DFID has committed to $10 million as well.

After the devastation in Malawi, it is time to incubate preparation strategies. The storms may be unstoppable, but their impact can be much more minimal. The best emergency response begins before disaster hits. With upgraded technologies stationed in target areas, countries will be able to organize and plan well in advance.

– Katie Groe

Sources: Gov.Uk 1, Gov.Uk 2, The Guardian, The Global Mechanism
Photo: Flickr