Malawi is a landlocked country located in southeast Africa and is about the size of Pennsylvania (click the “map marker” button on the top right of this page to see a map of Malawi). It borders Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania. Malawi is referred to as “The Warm Heart of Africa” by both locals and visitors for its friendly spirit and welcoming people but, despite the optimism of its culture, Malawi is one of the poorest places in the world.
Poverty continues to be chronic and widespread in Malawi, which is ranked 170 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index and where over 60% of people live on less than $1.25 per day (UNDP, 2015). The country’s development is hindered by a fast growing population, limited arable land, natural disasters, food insecurity, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, and a high incidence of malaria.
Malawi is home to approximately 19.2 million people. Almost 50% of the population is under the age of 15 (CIA World Factbook, 2017), and a large number of these Malawian children are living in poverty. Poverty threatens a child’s most basic rights to survival, health, nutrition, education and protection from exploitation. Millions of children, particularly in rural areas, face unimaginable living conditions. They remain without access to running water, decent sanitation, or medical facilities. Malnutrition is devastating and one of the largest contributors to child death in Malawi (UNICEF).
Malawi has been heavily affected by HIV/AIDS. The HIV prevalence rate is more than 9% and over 1,000,000 people in the country are living with the disease. The extent to which the disease affects the country’s children is staggering. More than half of Malawi’s estimated one million orphans have lost one or both of their parents to HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS, 2016).
Costs such as uniforms, pencils, notepads, and shoes often prove too great and make even free primary school too expensive for many families in Malawi. Secondary school (high school) is not free, and lack of school fees frequently causes students to drop out of school. Secondary school is a basic public service in many countries across the world but, unfortunately, many children in Malawi will never have the opportunity attend secondary school at all.
While Malawi is a poor country in terms of wealth, it is also a friendly and welcoming one. As a subsistence economy, most Malawians live in rural villages. One of the country’s greatest resources is the beautiful Lake Malawi, which makes up about one third of the country’s area and is home to more species of fish than any other freshwater lake. The population of Malawi is 87% Christian and 11% Islamic, and religion remains an important facet of everyday like for most. Malawi is a functioning multiparty democracy. For all of the hardship, hunger, disease, lack of education and opportunity, the people of Malawi continue to strive for advancement.