Poverty in Malawi

Girls house

Poverty in Malawi*

Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa” due to the welcoming and affectionate disposition of the people yet rural areas are devastated by poverty and Malawi is classified as a least developed country, as nearly 70 percent of its 17 million people live on less than $1.90 a day, with poverty concentrated in rural areas, where 95 percent of the poor live.

IMF has ranked the 28 poorest countries in the world – where people live on less than $ 1,000 per capita. Malawi ranks 3rd with $ 342. 2nd is Burundi with $ 339 and first is South Sudan at $ 246

Despite being largely peaceful, Malawi ranks 170 out of 188 countries with a Human Development Index of 0.476, placing it well below the sub-Saharan average of 0.523.

Social Context**

“Encouraging progress has been made in human development in recent years. Life expectancy is up to 63.9 years in 2017 from 62.8 in 2016.  The total fertility rate is down to 4.4 children per woman from 6.7 between 1992-2015/16. Self-reported literacy (reading and writing in any language) is 81% percent for males and 66% for females (15+ years of age). However, poverty and inequality remain stubbornly high. One in two people in rural areas are poor (note that the official poverty estimation for 2016/17 is being prepared using the Fourth Integrated Household Survey). Poverty is driven by poor performance of the agriculture sector, volatile economic growth, population growth, and limited opportunities in non-farm activities.

Cost of food in Malawi increased 10.40 percent in October of 2018 over the same month in the previous year. Food Inflation in Malawi averaged 21.20 percent from 1990 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 113 percent in July of 1995 and a record low of 2 percent in September of 2003.” http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/malawi/overview

Trade v aid

The Republic of Malawi, previously a British colony, was formed in 1964. It is a landlocked country located in southeast Africa, bordered by Mozambique to the east, south and west, Tanzania to the north-east and Zambia to the north-west.

Malawi covers an area of 118 000 km2, which is half the size of the UK. With its population estimated at 16.4 million as at 2013, its economic narrative is rather bleak. The country’s inequality trend is disquieting as approximately 10.8 million people live on less than $1.25 a day.(http://povertydata.worldbank.org/poverty/country/MWI )

The capital, Lilongwe in the central region is amongst the most densely populated areas, however majority of the population reside in the rural areas where poverty is rife. The extents to which these areas are riddled with poverty and deprivation in the 21st century are astonishing. The Kuntamanji County (T.A Kuntumanji – located in the Zomba district) is one of such areas.

Poverty in Zomba District – Kuntumanji

The Zomba district is one of the poorest Districts in Malawi. Poverty is widespread here, with 70% of its population falling below the national poverty line.

Based on a situation analysis in June 2009 Shine Relief Trust UK determined Kuntumanji County as being the most disadvantaged area within the district – with children facing the most neglect. After further determining the absence of any NGOs in Kuntumanji, Shine Relief Trust’s call to action in the area was established to aid in poverty alleviation.

When compared to the Southern Districts of Malawi, the system of regular income is considerably underdeveloped in Zomba. People mainly rely on unpaid work, beckoning the question of people’s survival in these areas. With subsistence farming being the major income generator, people face great income insecurity due to the inconsistent nature of the trade. Meaning only 6% of the total population have a regular source of monetary income and a further 9 out of every 10 people have no regular income.

Poverty P1000095in Zomba District is severe. 41 % of its population fall below the national ultra poverty line – hence making its case for poverty considerably worse than the national average.

To watch a short clip of the life of a 10 year old click here 

*World Development Indicators database, World Bank, 21 September 2018 **UNDP Country Programme Document for Malawi 2019 to 2023,