2012 was a year of great change in Malawi, with the death of long-serving President Bingu wa Mutharika in April. His successor, former Vice President Joyce Banda, moved quickly to reverse controversial policy decisions and strained relationships with international donors. However, the challenges are great, with continued high inflation, rising costs, a rapidly growing population, and frequent environmental shocks including droughts and flooding.
Concern has worked in Malawi for ten years and current program activities focus on three sectors across four districts. In 2012, our work in health, education, and livelihoods directly supported 67,734 people.
EDUCATION - Improving equitable access to quality education, particularly for girls and vulnerable children, in 25 primary schools
Although Malawi has high rates of school enrollment in primary education, the quality of that education is poor and there is a high likelihood that girls will drop out early. Concern is working in Nsanje district at the very southern end of the country to improve service delivery, create a safer learning environment for girls, increase community participation in school management, and improve coordination among all involved. The focus of much of this work is on the training of school committees, mothers’ groups, child protection committees, and parent-teacher associations. The next step will be to ensure a change in attitudes and behavior, especially in relation to gender-based violence within schools. The program team has decided to prioritize teacher training, reading interventions, and classroom support visits as the best pathway to improving access to and quality of primary education.
HEALTH - Empowering communities and government to combat childhood diseases and malnutrition at the community level
There are two main aspects to Concern’s health programming in Malawi. The first is the training of community health workers in Nkhotakota and Dowa districts in the diagnosis and treatment of malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia in children under five, with more than 19,000 children successfully treated to date. To build sustainability, Concern also works to train existing village development committees to plan and support maternal and child health activities. Eighty-two committees are now trained as a result of Concern’s efforts in 2012. We also scaled up our health education campaigns, with 22 drama groups staging 142 events throughout the year and a popular radio program on health and nutrition airing three times a week.
The other focus of our health programming has been the effective transfer to the government of full management of our groundbreaking Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) services. Seventeen out of 29 districts now provide CMAM in at least 80 percent of their health facilities, and nationally, 502 out of 617 health facilities use this approach developed by Concern to treat children with acute malnutrition at the community level rather than in central feeding centers.
LIVELIHOODS - Helping 75,000 people bolster food production and household income
The current phase of Concern’s livelihoods strategy will run for four years and aims to improve food security and resilience among the poorest famers, with increased emphasis on helping women to gain greater decision-making power within farming households. Much of 2012 was focused on planning, collecting baseline information, developing strategic partnerships, and preparing activities with partners and stakeholders.
A total of 12,800 households were reached over the course of the year through initial project activities. More than 180 lead famers were trained in turn to provide training in new agricultural methods on demonstration plots for their neighbors. In addition, nearly 1,300 farmers, 427 of them women, installed small-scale irrigation systems, and 550 farmers established kitchen gardens for vegetable production. Mobile technology was used in Lilongwe and Nkhotakota to assist 482 farmers to negotiate the best prices through the provision of up-to-date market information. Village savings and loans groups were introduced in Lilongwe and Nsanje districts and expanded in Nkhotakota in 2012, supporting 1,924 women. Lastly, Concern helped 6,300 poor, vulnerable households enhance their ability to cope in times of environmental and climactic hazard.
MALAWI AT A GLANCE
Area: 118,000 sq km
Population: 15.9 million
GDP per capita: $805
Infant mortality (per thousand births): 58
Life expectancy: 54.8
Living with HIV and AIDS: 10 percent
Literacy rate: 74.8 percent
Without access to safe water: 17 percent
Human development rank: 170 (out of 187)
Global hunger rank/index: 45/16.7