Often described as the “warm heart of Africa” because of the friendliness and hospitality of its people, Malawi is a small, densely-populated country in southeastern Africa. Malawi is one of the poorest in the world. It has few natural resources, and the economy is largely agricultural. Around 85% of the population live in rural areas and over 40% live on less than $1 a day. It is bordered by Tanzania to the northeast, Zambia to the northwest and Mozambique to the southwest, south and southeast.
Lake Malawi occupies a fifth of Malawi and only half of the remaining land is suitable for crop farming. The growing population, now at 12.5 million people living in an area a little bigger than the size of Portugal, has put pressure on the land, reducing the average landholding by 50 percent since the 1980s.
Malawi is one of the world least developed countries, currently ranked 170 out of 188 countries in the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Human Development Index, based on health, education and income (Human Development Indicators)
The UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) country overview notes that life for the majority of the 6.8 million children is characterised by “poor access to healthcare. A high incidence of diarrhoea, malaria and other communicable diseases make life in Malawi even more challenging. Malnutrition levels have remained high for over a decade and 46 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted.” (Situation of Women and Children). The UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Malawi Annual Report 2017 provides an interesting insight into the many challenges confronting children growing up in the country. The charity AVERT (AVERTing HIV and AIDS) identifies a number of interlinked problems that are contributing to the crisis. This include a severe national shortage of medical staff, poverty, gender inequality, food insecurity, malnutrition and other diseases such as malaria (HIV and AIDS in Malawi).
The government has made clean water a priority. However access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is still one of the main causes of death in the country (Water and Sanitation ). According to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), one-fifth of Malawian households are looking after orphans or other vulnerable children and many of them are headed by girls, women and elderly women. The majority of families caring for these children lack the means to provide them with basic necessities, including a healthy diet, suitable housing and access to satisfactory education and healthcare services. Widespread poverty is stretching family and community safety nets beyond their capacity to cope. An average malawian is expected to live to only 39 years of age. (Malawi’s Children)
Nkhata Bay is at the most northernly point of Lake Malawi. It is a small sheltered harbour, with a little, colourful market and a beautiful sand beach with an almost Caribbean vibe. Nkhata Bay is completely dependent on fish. All those who are not employed in the fishing industry, rely on farming for a living. Cassava is the main crop of the area.