Newton Sunday Sindo has written a special interest piece to give our supporters an idea of what is going on in the larger Malawian nation and economy, which has had major trickle down effects within the communities and for the people that FVM serves.
The whole world is going through economic turmoil due to a number of factors such as COVID-19, the Russia-Ukraine war, population boom, and natural disasters. The continent of Africa, especially the Sub-Saharan region where Malawi is situated, has been particularly hit hard. According to Global Finance Magazine of the United States, Malawi has been ranked the fourth poorest country in the world and the Malawian citizens are experiencing unprecedented poverty and struggle. The following outlines some global and local conditions which are having a great impact on the country and people of Malawi:
The effects of COVID-19 have remained a trauma to the already sick Malawi economy. All economic activities were halted for approximately 2 years due to physical movement restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. More than 70% of Malawians depend on a daily wage to sustain themselves and their households.
Malawi imports wheat for bread from Russia ($15M), Argentina ($1.27M), and Ukraine ($222k). The war between Ukraine and Russia has left Malawi with low supply of quality wheat which has raised the prices of commodities from the crop. For example, a loaf of bread was costing MK600 ($0.75US then), but it is now MK1,200 ($1.17US now). The conflict has also disrupted food supplies such as vegetable oils, cereals and fertilizers pushing already-high prices even higher in Malawi. For example, UREA fertilizer has had its price raised by 100% the past 6 months. The agro-based peasant farmer cannot afford even a bag of 50kg. Like all nations of the world, the war has also has pushed the prices of petroleum products higher than ever (Malawi gets most of its petroleum products from Ukraine and Russia). For example, it was cost MK850 (US$1.06) per litre of diesel 6 months ago. Now it is MK2,000 (US$1.95) per litre. The rise in transportation costs has affected prices of everything on the market and made it very difficult for citizens to purchase even basic necessities.
Natural Disasters: Cyclones, Cholera, and Electricity disruptions
Over this past year, Malawi experienced frequent cyclones that caused torrential rains that resulted in flash floods which destroyed crop fields, domestic animals, homes and other infrastructure. In an already fragile economy, this was disastrous. Malawi is a country that depends on agriculture for 80% of its economic funds, however the majority of farming is done by peasants using no machinery. Most of the crops grown are mainly for life sustenance and not for export. Food scarcity, normally a national concern, has risen to extreme levels.
The floods caused by the storms led to water contamination from runoff or sewage, which in turn also escalated water borne diseases, such as Cholera (794 people contacted Cholera, with 35 deaths). In Malawi, access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities is scarce, and in the aftermath of the cyclones many of these facilities were damaged or destroyed, and thus, communities were at risk of widespread disease outbreaks including cholera. As well, already scarce medical resources being strained by COVID had to be shared with the rise of Cholera in areas.
Another effect of the cyclones was a huge hydro-electricity generation station was damaged at Nkula thereby causing persistent power outages (an average of 8hrs in a day). This meant even smallest industries (like welding, restaurants, barber shops) were at a halt rendering those few players idle and without income. Therefore, unemployment rates have increased as many people had their services terminated as many small manufacturing industries closed down. All this is crippling the already dying economy.
High levels of corruption
Shamelessly, some advantaged individuals, which are a minority, have also plundered the few resources through corruption. The Malawi Government is trying its best to prevent corruption and hold those involved responsible. Few high ranked government officials, including some former cabinet government ministers, are answering corruption charges at the courts. There is a great hope of winning over corruption as the current government has instituted restrictions on possible holes of corruption flow. It has also tightened fiscal discipline to minimize government expenditure and reduce foreign and local debt.
The economic woes that Malawians are passing through are beyond description. All sectors of livelihood have been negatively affected. Covid-19, Russia-Ukraine war, natural disaster, and corruption have not only crippled the economy but even suffocated it big time. Non-Governmental organizations and charities are the hope through which communities can be reached with any social development interventions. We give thanks for our ability to continue our feeding program to 420 local children, as well as provide training and support to the youth generation who will be the leaders of Malawi in the future.
Thank you for your support and prayers.
-Newton Sunday Sindo