Malawi is considered to be the 8th poorest country in the world. Its 13.6 million people have a per-capita income of about $200 a year. 70% of the population lives on less than $1 a day. With 22% of its people suffering from chronic malnutrition, it is no wonder that grinding poverty makes everyday life in Malawi difficult. The increasing corruption and population growth, growing pressure on agricultural lands, and the 1 million people who are HIV+, pose major problems for this nation known as the “Warm Heart of Africa”.
Poverty is widespread and prevalent both in rural and urban areas. Hardest hit is the rural population; particularly women. 80% of rural women are illiterate, and less than 1% of rural Malawi has access to basic sanitation. The increasing number of HIV related deaths among productive adults in the public and private sector is draining the country’s capacity and adversely affecting development efforts. Chronic illness and death in households affected by HIV drains the few resources available to those of lower-income.
The impact of poverty and HIV/AIDS often hits children the hardest. Not only does Malawi have over 1.4 million orphans and vulnerable children, but 4 million children live in extreme poverty and 50% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition. 23% of children die before the age of 5 as a result of malnutrition, anemia, malaria, pneumonia, HIV and diarrhea.
Literacy in Malawi is low. About 47% of women and 25% of men are functionally illiterate or have not attended school. Only 4.5% of those who attend primary school go on to secondary education. In 1994 the Malawi Government declared ‘free and compulsory primary education’ with an explicit goal of educational quality for all. While this initially led to an increase in school enrollment, affordability of school uniforms and supplies remains a barrier for those of low income. Today, more than 50% of primary school children drop out of school due to poverty, hunger and cultural issues
It is estimated that only 47% of the Malawian population have access to safe drinking water within ½ mile of their residence. In urban areas 18% of the population has access to some form of sanitation system, while in rural areas, only 1% of people have access to adequate sanitation. In low-income, high density areas, access to clean water and clean toilets are limited.
The challenges faced by the people of Malawi have not overcome them. All across this beautiful nation God is raising up men and women as well as youth and young adults who are committed to seeing Malawi transformed by the grace of God. Hope is arising, even in some of the most impoverished communities. Churches are working together and one sees the evidence of transformation in both cities and the countryside.