Where is Malawi?
Population 13.6 million
Land mass 36,324 square miles
People per square mile 374
Life expectancy 43 years
Under age 5 mortality rate 120/1,000
Literacy rate 64%
Access to safe water 73%
Average annual income US$170
Located in southeast Africa, the Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country bordered by Mozambique to the east, south, and southwest, Zambia to the west, and Tanzania to the north. Lake Malawi, the 10th largest lake in the world, occupies the majority of the country’s eastern border. The north-south Great Rift Valley, which runs through the center of the country, is flanked by mountain ranges and high, narrow, elongated plateaus. In the higher elevations, Malawi is cooler than many other African countries, but the lowlands are hot, humid, and tropical. Natural resources include limestone, hydropower, uranium, coal, and bauxite.
Due in large part to the explorations of David Livingstone, the area known then as Nyasaland became a British protectorate in 1891. After several decades of public outcry for independence, Malawi became a self-governed nation on July 6, 1964. One-party rule under the presidency of Dr. Hastings Banda lasted for 30 years, but in 1994 the Malawian people voted for a new form of government. As a result, the country held their first free democratic multiparty elections that year, voting in Bakili Mazuli as president. A decade later, current president and economist Bingu wa Mutharika took office amid pressure to alleviate the country’s deteriorating economy.
The three prominent ethnic groups in Malawi are the Chewa, who occupy the central area; the Nyanja, who live predominantly in the south; and the Tumbuka, who have settled mostly in the north. Other groups include the Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, and Ngonde, as well as some Asians and Europeans. Chichewa is the country’s official language, though English and others are spoken regionally.
Eighty-two percent of Malawians live in rural areas and are engaged in farming. Agriculture products include corn, sugarcane, cotton, tea, vegetables, nuts, cattle, and goats. Despite a recent surplus of maize, severe food insecurity in Malawi has afflicted approximately 4 million people—more than a million of whom are children under age five or pregnant women. The chronic food crisis is a major cause of malnutrition and has increased the risk of diseases.
Eghty-two percent of Malawians live in rural areas and are engaged in farming. Agriculture products include corn, sugarcane, cotton, tea, vegetables, nuts, cattle, and goats. Despite a recent surplus of maize, severe food insecurity in Malawi has afflicted approximately 4 million people—more than a million of whom are children under age five or pregnant women. The chronic food crisis is a major cause of malnutrition and has increased the risk of diseases.
Drought, fluctuating trade expenses, high transport costs, few skilled laborers, and a deteriorating transportation infrastructure are the primary reasons that this largely agriculture-dependent economy is struggling. Malawi is ranked in the bottom eight percent of the world’s least developed countries on the human development index. Nearly 53 percent of people live below the poverty threshold, the inflation rate is 28 percent, and more than three-quarters of the population live on less than $2 per day. Nearly 75 percent of secondary school-age children are either working or staying home to care for their families instead of receiving valuable education.
Despite attempts at economic reform, the government continues to face challenges due to a rapidly growing population and the increasing number of HIV and AIDS cases. The HIV prevalence rate is 14 percent; nearly 1 million people in the country are living with the disease. More than 550,000 children have lost one of both of their parents to HIV and AIDS. In addition, the threat of cholera remains high in Malawi due to outbreaks during the rainy season (November to April); this becomes a huge risk in flood situations because of the possible breakdown of water and sanitation capabilities.
The above information was courtesy of World Vision.