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Program commenced:   1990

Total number of placements: 98 (as of 17 August, 2011)

Number of current placements: 7 (as of 17 August, 2011)

AVI Programs: Volunteer Program, United Nations Volunteer Program

Malawi is a small landlocked country in south eastern Africa, surrounded by Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania. The country was annexed by Britain in 1891 and named Nyasaland. Between 1951 and 1953 the colony was combined with Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia in the form of a federation.

Malawi regained its independence in 1964 only to then face internal political problems arising from the 30 year reign of Malawi's first leader, Dr Hastings K Banda. In 1994, violent protests eventually brought about the country's first free elections. Although many of the country's political issues have been settled, there remain a number of development issues yet to be solved.

Contact our Southern Africa program office.

Development Issues

Socio-economic issues
Health issues
Environmental issues

Socio-economic issues

Malawi's development has been significantly undermined by the onset of economic crises since the 1970s. In particular, the escalation of debt servicing has had catastrophic consequences for Malawi and many other African nations, not only reversing previous gains in poverty reduction and basic needs provision, but contributing to a significant impoverishment of the majority of the population. By the end of 2006, Malawi's external debt stood at around US$3.287 billion or approximately 165.6 per cent of its GDP.

Poverty is also widespread in Malawi. In fact, an estimated 42 per cent of the population live on less than $1 a day. That figure rises to over 76 per cent for less than $2 a day. Contributing to such poverty and stifling development is the low level of education in Malawi. Although improvements have been made in this area of recent times (compulsory primary education is now in place and some of the gender inequalities addressed) secondary school enrolments stand at less than 30 per cent (of those of secondary school age) and that figure drops to only around 0.5 per cent for tertiary enrolments.

A further issue to development is Malawi's large population, which makes poverty reduction harder. The same 118,480 square kilometres containing all the natural resources, has to service the needs of greatly increasing numbers. Complicating this further is the fact that the population is continuing to grow.

For up-to-date statistics on the above information, please refer to the following sites: 
CIA World Factbook page on Malawi
World Bank page on Malawi
UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Database
Human Development Reports fact page

Health issues

A still-emerging problem which is a major factor in the fall in human and economic development of recent years is that of HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS prevalence among adults (15-49 years old) in Malawi is estimated to be around 14 per cent (making it one of the worst affected countries in the world). In fact, it is estimated that there are around 940,000 people in Malawi living with HIV/AIDS.

The spectre of HIV/AIDS impacts on the healthcare system often already run down by economic crises and inadequate resource allocation. Complicating things further is the fact that Malawi's population is predominantly rural (over 80 per cent). This makes access to health services for much of the population difficult.

The reduction of life expectancy, diminished productivity, and increasing burdens on social welfare will all have negative impacts on development gains. Further, given Malawi's acute shortage of high quality human capital, the economic impact of AIDS could be even more severe than already seen.

For up-to-date statistics on the above information, please refer to the following sites: 
UNAIDS page on Malawi

Environmental issues

Sustainable environmental practices are crucial for Malawi's long term development. The increasing population has also increased pressure on the environment. Malawi was ranked 74th on the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) in 2005. The two areas of main environmental concern identified in the ESI were reducing population stress and reducing ecosystem stress.

Despite the fact that the government launched the National Environmental Policy in 1996 to increase awareness of environmental issues and establish community-based natural resource management, environmental degradation continues. Of particular concern is the fact that an estimated three per cent of forest is disappearing each year as 93 per cent of the population remains dependent on wood fuel. At the same time, the over-exploitation of fisheries in Lake Malawi has led to a decline in fish production of nearly 40 per cent. This is especially significant given fish contributes 60-70 per cent of the total animal protein consumption in Malawi.

For up-to-date statistics on the above information, please refer to the following sites: 
One World page on Malawi