Where is Malawi?
It is a former British colony that won independence on July 6, 1964 from Great Britain. Why is Dawn's Early Light featuring it? Good question.
San Clemente Presbyterian Church Pastor Tod Bolsinger (and It Takes a Church blogger) is leading a team of 7 church members, one a doctor and another a nurse, on an advance team mission to Malawi for two weeks. They are a part of a 10-church partnership in coordination with World Vision that is looking to lay the ground work for a 15-year partnership to effect change in one of the world's poorest countries. Tod's posts on Malawi can be found here. Because I am interested in the success of this mission as this team lays important groundwork to improve the living conditions in the Nkhoma region, Dawn's Early Light will make it a regular feature. Posts can be found here (or by clicking IR: Malawi under "Categories" on the side menu) that will draw attention to a country that is easy to overlook in the West.
Malawi by the Numbers
Malawi is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, along Lake Nyasa, slightly smaller than the state of Pennsylvania. Here is Malawi by the numbers (source CIA Factbook 2004):
- Population under 12 million
- 47% of the population is 14 or under, less than 3% of the population is over 65
- Malawi has the world's 6th highest mortality rate (out of 226)
- More than 10% of children born die as infants. Only 11 nations have higher infant mortality rates, and 8 of those are African countries
- Due to the ravages of AIDS/HIV, the life expectancy is less than 38 years for both men and women
- 7.5% of the people or almost 1 out of 12 Malawians are dying of AIDS
- Religious beliefs - Protestant 55%, Catholic 20%, Muslim 20%, indigenous 3%, other 2%
- While Pennsylvania is roughly the same in size and population, the average citizen in Pennsylvania contributes $36,400 to Gross State Product compared to less than $600 GDP per citizen of Malawi
- Roughly 90% of the people live in rural areas
- Tobacco accounts for over 50% of exports
- 55% of the people live below the poverty line
- Public debt is 235% of GDP
- After South Africa, the United States is Malawi's largest export trading partner
- approximately 36,000 people have internet access or 0.3%
Malawi Political Situation
The country, after winning independence from the United Kingdom (it remains a part of the Commonwealth) ended up with one-party rule. The first free and fair elections were just over 10 years ago in May 1994, which were won by the United Democratic Front (UDF). A subsequent free and fair election was held in 1999, where Bingu wa Mutharika won the presidency. However, due to an anti-corruption campaign, he and his party ended their relationship in February of this year.
The President made an appearance at a Good Friday cross-carrying ceremony. Reuters reports on March 26th:
"Wa Mutharika is a Roman Catholic while his predecessor and UDF leader Bakili Muluzi hails from the southern African country's growing Muslim minority.
But the hostility between the two is political rather than religious and the staging of the protest on Good Friday was prompted more by the fact that wa Mutharika was making a rare public appearance.
Elected last May as Muluzi's hand-picked successor, wa Mutharika has fallen out with his erstwhile champion and party after pursuing an anti-corruption drive that has targeted many of Muluzi's close allies within the UDF.
The power struggle came to a head in January, when wa Mutharika accused Muluzi of backing a plot to kill him and dramatically quit the UDF to go it alone, appearing to trump Muluzi's efforts to have him expelled from the party.
The UDF and the main opposition party threatened last week to team up to impeach wa Mutharika over accusations that he has violated the constitution 10 times since his election.
The Public Affairs Committee, Malawi's most influential religious body grouping Christians and Muslims, called on parliament on Friday not to impeach wa Mutharika, but to punish him in some other way for any violations of the Constitution."
While the political situation deteriorates, starvation and hunger loom. According to World Vision as of March 2, 2005:
"The Malawi Government is admitting that a serious food crisis has hit the country. The crisis may be similar to the nation's worst famine which killed hundreds of people three years ago.
'…Most of the crops, more especially maize, are not in a condition to give farmers bumper yields,' said Malawi's Agriculture, Food Security and Irrigation Minister Gwanda Chakuamba. 'In short, this is another year of starvation.'"
Why is Malawi important? It goes back to the golden rule and this quote from Matthew: “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
An honest admission. Prior to this post, I would have struggled to put Malawi on a map (not surprising for an American?). Hopefully you have found this post on Malawi as educational and depressing as I have. Hopefully, it will inspire us all to action.