News Reports


28/6/02 Setback for Third Term Campaign (AllAfrica report)

28/6/02 Inside Famished Malawi (BBC report)

9/5/02 The story told by a 17 year old AIDS orphan from Malawi

NEW YORK -- As the world's governments began a three-day debate yesterday about the fate of children, a young man, Wisdom Murowa, took a seat in the hallway outside the United Nations General Assembly and quietly told his terrible story. "At first, nobody would tell me why everyone in my family was going away and dying," the clear-eyed young man said. Mr. Murowa is 17, and as a child in Malawi he found himself living the catastrophe that threatens to reverse decades of progress in children's living conditions. When he was 8, his father died of a mysterious illness. Two years later, his closest sister died, then three years later, his mother. He was left alone with his younger sister, no parents and no source of income and no food in one of the world's poorest countries. "I asked my cousins and uncles what was happening, and they would not tell me what was killing my family. They were hiding it from me. But I had to know because everyone in my town was dying, all my friends and relatives. I soon knew that it had to be AIDS and that I was another orphan." Mr. Murowa is one of so many AIDS orphans they could form their own nation, a nation that has appeared almost overnight. Their number has surpassed 10 million and threatens to grow larger than the population of Canada. A decade ago, even the most pessimistic observers did not predict this. In the 12 years since the UN last assessed the state of the world's children, almost everything has improved: mortality rates, education, sanitation, labour laws, equality of opportunity for boys and girls and less exploitation. One terrible exception remains: the surging population of AIDS orphans. In 1990, there were just over one million children made orphans by AIDS. statistics released by the UN say the number has jumped to 10.4 million and is expected to double by 2010. This vast nation of children has become the single biggest challenge to the world's resources of aid. At yesterday's General Assembly meeting, as world leaders boasted of the eradication of polio, the curbing of land mines and reductions in child labour, Malawian Vice-President Justin Malewezi spoke of the disaster. "The HIV-AIDS pandemic will kill more people in Africa than all the casualties of all the wars of the 20th century combined," he said. "We need resources commensurate with the scale of disaster threatening our future." Mr. Murowa is one of the lucky ones: He and his sister were taken in by his uncle, a sugar-plantation supervisor, who is rearing 14 orphaned children of relatives on an income of a few hundred dollars a year. Their living is meagre but not as dire as that faced by most African AIDS orphans. "There are very few children going to school in my town any more," Mr. Murowa said. "We have lost most of our teachers to AIDS, and the students have had to stop attending to care for their families. Many of my old classmates are working as beggars or prostitutes because if your family has died of AIDS, nobody wants to take you in." Indeed, the crisis of AIDS is not simply medical. The orphans are ostracized in places such as Malawi, where superstition and poor education have led even uninfected relatives of AIDS victims to be shunned and turned into untouchables. "Things are getting worse," Mr. Murowa said. "People don't understand about AIDS in my country, and the orphans can't even survive as beggars. It has affected everybody I know."
4/5/02 Elephants, Hippos Destroy Malawi Crops
Herds of rampaging elephants and hippos have devastated 10,000 hectares of cropland in southern Malawi, a country already suffering through a severe food crisis. A member of parliament from the region, Mekkie Mtewa, says the animals have wiped out the crops of entire villages in the resort district of Mangochi, 200 kilometers east of the commercial capital, Blantyre. The Associated Press reports some villagers have been trampled to death by the animals or killed when elephants toppled their houses with them inside. Wildlife officials say the elephants and hippos were driven into Malawi by severe flooding in neighboring Mozambique. Last week, the U.N. World Food Program warned there will be a disaster in southern Africa if millions of dollars in emergency food aid does not reach Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The agency says the situation is particularly dire in Malawi, where hundreds of people have already died of starvation and related illnesses.
26/4/02 Malawi: a survey of the debt and poverty situation
Weighed down by a critical food shortage, limited access to land, unemployment and poor education and health services, Malawi is one of the world's poorest its dismal record, the government this week launched a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) - a first step to gain unqualified relief on its US $2.5 billion foreign debt under the controversial Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. In setting out the PRSP, a blueprint expected to guide the country's programme over the next one year, President Bakili Muluzi said poverty reduction was the
central focus of his government's economic policy. But he cautioned that experience had shown that past development efforts had achieved too little because the government and the donors had tried to do too much. This time it was up to Malawians to help themselves. Poverty in Malawi is widespread and severe. Based on 1998 Integrated Household Survey (IHS) consumption data 65.3 percent of the country's 10-million population - or roughly 6.3 million people - are poor. Their consumption of basic needs (both food and non-food), is below the minimum level estimated at US 13 cents per day in 1998, and it is believed that 2.8 million people live in dire poverty. About 52 percent of the poor are female, and females head around 25 percent of households. The literacy rate stands at 58 percent. Education attainment, defined as completion of Standard 8, stands at only 11.2 percent of adults aged 25 years and above, and only 6.2 percent for women. Life expectancy at birth dropped from 43 years in 1996 to 39 years in 2000. Infant and under-five mortality rates were estimated to be 104 and 189 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively. In 1998, Malawi paid out US 39 cents in debt service for every US $1 received in aid grants. According to the debt cancellation lobby group Jubilee 2000, as a percentage of economic output, spending on debt service was twice the amount spent on health. The bulk of Malawi's debt is owed to the World Bank. The long and winding road to achieving measurable poverty reduction will not be easy, analysts warn. For a start, the government suffers from persistent budget over expenditures. The president has often ignored calls to trim his bloated cabinet of 39 ministers. Each cabinet minister drives the latest Mercedes saloon or an expensive 4x4. In 1994, one of the first actions of Muluzi's new government was to introduce universal primary education and increase health and education spending by 50 percent to US $148 million a year. "But under pressure from the IMF and World Bank to curb government expenditure, the health and education budget by 1999/2000 had been cut back to under US $100 million," Jubilee 2000 noted. Although 24 countries world-wide have reached the decision point under the HIPC initiative, only four countries - Bolivia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda - have qualified for unconditional debt relief since it was initiated by the IMF and World Bank in 1996. The HIPC record has been criticised for taking too long and not cancelling enough debt. Preparing a comprehensive and fully participatory PRSP is one of the conditions for a country to reach completion point. Malawi reached completion point in December 2000 after an "interim" PRSP - that was criticised for not properly involving civil society - and qualified for debt relief of US $40 million. Having completed the PRSP, Malawi must satisfactorily implement it under IMF and World Bank monitoring. "At that stage Malawi will be eligible for up to and above US $80 million of debt forgiveness annually for an accumulated 20 year-period. These will not be new and additional extra funds but rather funds within the same national budget released from debt servicing, and now available for development work-related poverty reduction," said Finance Minister Friday Jumbe. Jumbe, appointed finance minister two months ago, had earlier described the government budget as "left with no meat but bare bones". He was quick to add that the Malawi PRSP will not work if the international community did not increase concessional aid aligned to national strategies, open up its markets to developing country exports, and phase out trade-distorting subsidies. Jubilee 2000 argues that the debt relief granted to Malawi is not enough to make the country's debt burden "sustainable" - the purpose of the HIPC process. Debt is considered sustainable if the net present value is less than 150 percent of export earnings. Malawi's debt will only fall below 150 percent of exports in 2007, "and that is based on very optimistic estimates of growth in export earnings", the lobby group warned. Malawi launches its war on poverty at a time when the country is facing a severe food shortage. The government declared a state of disaster in February, when over 500 people had reportedly died from hunger-related diseases, and seven million had run out
of food. The country is also severely affected by the spread of HIV and AIDS. "There are a host of other reasons why implementation of the PRSP will be challenging. HIV/AIDS alone has the potential to seriously derail the wider objectives of the PRSP and must be counted as a major risk ... perhaps the major risk," observed Mike Wood, head of Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) in Malawi.

19/4/02 Almost 1000 Cholera Deaths Reported

Almost 1,000 people have died from cholera in Malawi since November and about 33,000 infections have been reported up to mid-April, the national health department told IRIN on Friday. Most cases were in the central region, which saw 592 people die and 16,318 people infected, Dr Habib Somanje, director of preventive health services said. In the southern region, 364 people died and 16,257 were infected, while the north was least affected, with 30 deaths and 362 reported cases. "This is the worst outbreak in the past 10 years," he said, adding that the outbreak affected men, women and children equally. The causes of the latest outbreak were not yet clear, but the department was mobilising support from churches, traditional leaders and political organisations, he said. In addition, the health department had been caught off guard with the high number of infections and did not have enough drugs or rehydration materials, Somanje added. He also appealed to people to practise good hygiene to beat the epidemic. World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Ben Chandyamba said United Nations agencies would next week begin an assessment of the current food crisis and would include the social aspect in their study. Chandyamba said it was possible that the cholera outbreak could also be linked to starving people in peri-urban areas eating whatever they could find to survive. "They are eating anything you can think of," said Chandyamba. Meanwhile, Channel Africa reported on Friday that Britain would provide US $6 million in emergency food aid to the country, which is suffering its worst hunger crisis in 50 years. The British High Commission in Blantyre was quoted as saying that 35,000 poor families in the central Salima and Mchinji districts would benefit from the aid over the next two months. Britain, Malawi's former colonial power and largest aid donor, was withholding the first tranche of a US $122 million dollar aid package to Malawi pending improved fiscal discipline, the report said.
8/4/02 Villagers Overwhelm Food Supplies, Eat Wild Seeds
Villagers in Malawi, facing severe famine due to floods and drought, are eating wild seeds as a supplement to their diminishing stock of maize. Action by Churches Together ACT - member Evangelical Lutheran Development Programme ELDP has already started distributing food aid in some of the most affected districts. But the demand is much bigger than the stock. Charles Machado, the man in charge of Mapira's Maize Mill in Phalombe, a small town in South Eastern Malawi, is far from happy with business these days. In fact, he had to dismiss half of his four employees lately because of the famine in Malawi. "Normally we have up to 200 customers every day. Now, the number has dropped alarmingly to 40 to 50. People have simply run out of maize. They are bringing smaller and smaller portions of maize to the mills by the day," he says. In late March, however, there were frequent rains in Phalombe district. The common perception of famine related to brown and dusty colours was disturbed. In Malawi these days the fields are green. And normally green means fertility. But there is more to it than meets the eye. If one goes inside a maize field it is quite obvious that the maize plants have not developed a reasonably size of combs if any at all. The rains suddenly stopped in the middle of the season, affecting the crops severely. The phrase, Green Hunger, is adequate to the situation for Malawians living in the rural areas. Jacob Mtsunji, project officer with ELDP, shows how poor the crop is. Lots of maize plants have turned brown before time, yielding combs with less than 50 percent of the normal size, the rest are about two meters high, but without any combs at all. "They are completely useless, nothing will come out of this," he says. In the small village Phaloni in Phalombe district, the local farmers are eager to show the kind of local weed most of the villagers are forced to eat these days: Small seeds with very little nutritious value at all. But this is better than nothing. In Phaloni already 15 to 20 people have died from hunger, he claims. They are mostly old people and small children. One of the farmers says that his mother passed away recently - from hunger. ACT-member ELDP is distributing food aid in Phaloni. Together with the local authorities ELDP has identified the most needy people. They line up patiently to get their share of the goods brought to them by the ELDP-truck. They come from eight small villages, and they have already registered for food aid. They comprise the strongest members among the around 1,000 families in the villages. They are the few ones to have enough strength to come to the food distribution centre and carry the food rations back to the family. ELDP has distributed 12.5 tonnes of maize flour, two tonnes of beans, 2.5 tonnes of likuni phala (a highly nutritous food mix for children) and 705 maize seeds. ELDP will distribute a similar amount in Zomba and Karonga districts. "It is far from enough to meet the demand. It is important to continue the support. Already now we can predict that we will be facing massive starvation later this year when their poor harvest has been eaten,"says ELDP director Eliawony Meena.

28/3/02 300 People Starve to Death in Worst Famine in 50 Years

More than 300 people have starved to death in Malawi's central and northern regions because of a famine that has been described as the worst in the last 50 years, according to reports from the country. Action by Churches Together ACT has issued an appeal for more than one million US dollars to help the most affected people. Alarming reports are coming from the region saying that more than four million people in three countries - Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe - are currently threatened by severe food shortages due to a drought. Worst hit by the crisis is Malawi where the problems are mounting. During the year 2001 the country had been affected by floods and cyclone disasters, which resulted in a poor harvest. Most farmers did not harvest adequate food to take them to the harvest time. In the beginning of this year heavy rains washed crops away in some parts of the country. This and the current drought aggravate the food shortage situation. Critics say that the government's handling of the food situation could have been better. Furthermore, there are reports of cholera outbreaks in several parts of the country. ACT members, Churches Action in Relief and Development CARD and the Evangelical Lutheran Development Programme ELDP have described the food shortage as a serious crisis needing urgent response from the international community. They point out that most people in the rural areas do not have adequate income to purchase the little food available on the market - this has forced many households to stay without food for long periods of time. From remote villages, staff members report that some people are now eating wild fruits, grass seeds and banana roots. At times, that has led to deaths as some fruits are poisonous and, in their desperation, some people do not realise this. It is also reported that some peasant farmers with crops in the fields have already started to eat the premature green maize narrowing further any chances of harvest in May. Another common commodity people resort to is maize bran - usually given to livestock. But even the bran is not enough for so many people in danger of starving. The food shortage has reached crisis stage in the country and many children have become severely malnourished. The crisis has caused widespread hunger and an increase in hunger-related diseases. It is expected that the reported death toll of at least 300 people will rise before help reaches the affected people. ELDP and CARD are going to distribute food in Nsanje, Salima (CARD) and Karanga, Photombe and Chikwawa (ELDP). In total the members will distribute maize to approximately 37,500 families in the above mentioned districts. They also plan to distribute a highly nutritious food mix called Likuni Phala to about 17,000 malnourished children. The food crisis is so severe that reportedly primary schools had to close as pupils were unable to go to school because they were too hungry. The rural areas where the majority of people are dependent on agriculture have been most affected with women and children faring the worst. Efforts to bring food from South Africa have been frustrated by serious regional transportation problems, coupled with the inefficient way the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation ADMARC has been handling the maize sales.
27/3/02 MP Murderer
POLICE are looking for MCP Member of Parliament (MP) for Dowa East Nassa Kara who is on the run after allegedly murdering his driver early this month. Public Relations Officer George Chikowi said yesterday Kara is atlarge and police are looking for him. "We are holding in custody his bodyguard Philip Singo,36, of Makhuma Village T/A Nduwa in Mchinji and Charles Kulemeka, 23, of Kulemeka village in Dedza," Chikowi said. The driver, Alex Mbewe of Chadza village in Lilongwe, Chikowi said, was murdered on March 6, 2002 as they drove to Mzuzu. Police explained that Mbewe was stabbed on the neck at Bua Bridge and put in the boot of Kara's Mercedes Benz car registration number BM 7212. "The three ran out of ideas and decided to drive back and stopped at Chize bridge where they pushed the car into the river with the body in the boot," he explained. Chikowi said Kulemeka and Singo confessed to police that they killed the driver after they failed to poison him. Kara's case becomes the second case in three years involving a politician after UDF MP for Mwanza-East Joe Manduwa was acquitted by the High Court.
15/3/02 Murder Suspect Bolts
Two remandees from Chichiri Prison, one of them a murder suspect but both on cholera treatment at Limbe Dispensary, on Tuesday night surprised their fellow patients when they bolted with their intravenous drips. Police spokesman George Chikowi said John Manganya, 19, of Manchinjiri in Blantyre and John Nguluwe Banda, 27, of Motheliwa, T/A Changata in Thyolo, were on March 11 admitted to Limbe Dispensary for cholera. But Prison Press Officer Tobias Nowa denied having had prisoners from Chichiri Prison suffering from cholera and being admitted to Limbe Dispersary. Despite being told that dispersary records indicate Chichiri Prison as the guardian address for the two remandees, Nowa insisted in an interview that according to the prison's officer-in-charge, there were no such records. 'As prison, we cannot comment on that issue because as far as the prison is concerned, there were no cholera patients at the dispersary. We are not aware of the matter,' he said. Hospital sources said some guardians reported that two patients had disappeared while the policeman guarding them was away. 'Our worry is that Nguluwe was critically ill,' said a dispensary official who did not want to be named. The dispensary official said the recorded statement from the remandees indicates that Nguluwe was charged with murder.
13/3/02 Nation's Airline Sheds 110 Jobs
AIR Malawi, the state-run flag-carrier, has laid off 110 people with effect from yesterday, the airline's chief executive Francis Pelekamoyo has confirmed.
Pelekamoyo said in a telephone interview the retrenchment of the workers was backed by former finance minister Mathews Chikaonda's observation that the airline was overstaffed and continued to be a drain on government coffers.
'We are executing recommendations that were noted in the 2001/2002 budget which described Air Malawi as one of the overstaffed parastatals,' he said.
The airline chief also said the effects of the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks on United States which shook the world's aviation industry did not spare Air Malawi. He said even the world's biggest airlines, including the British Airways, have had bad business since the attacks and made two hefty job cuts after the incident. The decision to retrench 110 people would not be strange, he said. 'Now we need to see which way as a business entity we will be heading to,' he said. Following the job cuts, Air Malawi has a work-force of at least 200 people, he said. Air Malawi still leads the list of state-run companies to be privatised.
13/3/02 Maneb Apologises
Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) has apologised to form three students who will miss the entire first term as announced by the Ministry of Education, following the Board's delay in releasing last year's Junior Certificate Examinations (JCE). Secretary for Education Thouse O'Dala said yesterday in an interview that they reached the policy decision to cancel the term after consultations, saying it was not practical for the students to go to school a few days before end of term. Maneb Executive Director Mathews Matemba yesterday said the Board was saddened by the cancellation. 'But we can't deny it, our delay in releasing the exams has contributed to the cancellation of the first term. We apologise to the form three students and promise the nation this will not happen again,' Matemba said. Matemba, however, said there are other factors to the cancellation from the Ministry of Education itself, like shortage of teachers and teaching materials. 'You don't expect students to go to school when there are no teachers, what will they learn? We are sure, however, that when the second term opens, teachers will try their best to recover the time lost by lengthening the term. Students can have a one-week break only,' he said.
O'Dala, however, described the factors raised by Maneb as irrelevant. O'Dala said the ministry is confident that students will catch up when school opens as arrangements have been put in place. Asked to comment on the poor results for JCE and Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE), O'Dala said the ministry is saddened and added there is more to be done both by the ministry and Maneb.
'We will try our best so that the Board should deliver the goods. We are not happy with what has happened. Even students themselves are not happy. We will try our best so that this should not happen again,' O'Dala said. The issue of poor results and quality of education, said O'Dala, should be improved. Cheating has to be stopped, he added. JCE and MSCE results for 2001 academic year have been very poor. Only 11,143 MSCE candidates out of 61,856 have passed, and 47,218 JCE candidates out of 82,530 have passed, representing a pass rate of 18.01 percent and 51.21 percent, respectively.
12/3/02 K10 Million for TVM
President Bakili Muluzi yesterday directed the Ministry of Finance to release K10 million to be used for the immediate repair of the Television Malawi which was gutted down by fire on Saturday. Muluzi who described the fire as a greatest tragedy when he toured the remains of the main studios and final control centre TVM's transmission nerve centre ordered the Minister Friday Jumbe to give out the check by today. "Within 10 days the public should be able to see temporary programmes. Government will do everything to restore the whole equipment as soon as it can so that the people of Malawi continue to enjoy TV programmes," he said. Briefing the president during the tour, TVM Board Chairman Mohammed Kulesi said the equipment which was rescued from the fire might not be as effective. "Once you lift the equipment it get affected we need a good engineer to check the machines if they still usable," he said. Government officials, party officers, the press and TVM employees walked aghast as they toured the affected studios to the rattling of the remain roof tiles and destroyed machines piled up in the rooms.
3/3/02 Food Crisis Set to Worsen
Malawi is currently facing a critical food shortage, but according to the World Food Programme (WFP), an even worse disaster could be on the way with April's harvest expected to be sharply down. President Bakili Muluzi declared a national disaster on Wednesday, and made an urgent appeal for food aid as officials warned that 70 percent of the country's 10 million people were at risk of starvation. He said that food shortages had reached critical proportions, especially in rural areas. "The reports are really bad," WFP Country Director Adama Diop-Faye told IRIN. "The only problem is you can't prove people died from hunger but I'm sure the deaths we're recording are hunger-related one way or another." She said at some distribution sites, people had not eaten for days and consumed WFP's high-protein corn-soya blend rations as soon as they were handed out. She added that anecdotal evidence suggested there are large numbers of kwashiorkor (extreme malnutrition) cases. Theft of food rations was also a concern for hungry villagers, who have begun to band together for protection at the distribution points. The government has said it needs an estimated US $21.6m to avoid disaster, but has secured only US $1.6m. WFP has in-country stocks of 798 mt of maize to feed 10,000 targeted households in 10 districts as an immediate response. But Diop-Faye acknowledged that this was only one-third of what was needed. In response to the crisis, WFP is now buying 1 500 mt of maize on the local market - at highly inflated prices. An additional eight districts will be covered, and an estimated total of 200,000 people fed. "Even with that intervention we are not solving the problem because more people are suffering from food shortages each day," Diop-Faye said. Malawi's crisis is a combination of several factors, the WFP Country Director said. Flooding in early 2001 led to food shortages in several parts of the country, especially the densely populated south. Donor cutbacks in support for a farm input assistance programme that provided seeds and fertiliser to vulnerable families, and the government's decision to sell-off some of its national food reserve, also worsened the current situation. Prices for the staple maize have rocketed by as much as 400 percent - well beyond the means of most Malawians. Meanwhile, although the government has banned the sale of green maize, farmers are harvesting early - both to defeat crop thefts and to make some income. But early harvesting, combined with destructive rains at the beginning of the year in 15 of Malawi's 27 districts, means that another poor agricultural season is in store for Malawi. The maize harvest, which begins in April, was expected to come in at 1.9 million mt. But production has now been reassessed to 1.5 million mt. National demand is 2.2 million mt. "Donors should look beyond this current crisis as it is going to be worse next year," warned Diop-Faye.

11/2/02 A New 500 Kwatcha Bank Note

Blantyre, Malawi - Malawi introduces a new 500 kwacha bank note with effect from midnight local time Monday in the wake of an unprecedented increase in demand for more cash due to higher prices for goods and services. The Reserve Bank of Malawi's General Manager (operations) Elias Kambalame, told journalists on Monday that the institution found it necessary to introduce the new bank note in a bid to cut the cost of printing money. "Inflation has gone up and demand for paper is growing," he said. "We need more paper to print money to meet the growing demand." Until now, the 200 Malawi kwacha bank note was the highest denomination. Although the Malawi government reacted defiantly to Denmark's recent aid withdrawal announcement, direct effects have already started being felt. The Malawi currency has been on a free fall since Denmark announced it was cutting off aid to Malawi a fortnight ago. The Reserve Bank of Malawi's move to introduce the new 500 bank note has confirmed speculation that all is not well in the local economy. The Malawi kwacha started loosing ground after Denmark said it was cutting all its economic ties and when Great Britain also announced it was withholding its aid money. The local currency, which has been selling at a comparatively healthy 65 units to the dollar over the past six months, was worth 75 kwacha to the US dollar at the start of business Monday. Other commercial banks and private foreign exchange dealers are quoting the dollar at a much higher rate. The kwacha's depreciation comes only days before the new Finance Minister Friday Jumbe presents his economic plans before a team of International Monetary Fund experts. Local economists will keenly watch the outcome of these talks as pre-meeting statements indicate that the Bretton Woods institution is not too happy with Malawi's economic management. At a meeting in Washington last week, IMF Managing Director Horst Kohler told President Bakili Muluzi to control expenditure, curb corruption and improve on governance so as to get a sympathetic ear from foreign donors and investors. These are the same issues that forced Denmark to completely cut off aid to Malawi and the European Union and Great Britain to suspend aid. The United States government has also redirected 6 million US dollars earmarked for Malawi to another country. "Overspending by government during 2001 resulted in high interest rates and crowded out private sector activity which has only depressed investment and growth," the IMF's head of mission for Malawi, Alfred Kammer, has said. Malawi's budget almost entirely depends on donor funding.

Blantyre, Malawi - Hippopotami have gone on rampage in Malawi's central lakeshore district of Salima, destroying an undisclosed hectarage of rice and maize fields, according to a local official who said the destruction exacerbated the acute food situation in the area. District councillor, Sakina Chimkomanje complained about the matter to Agriculture Minister Aleke Banda during a tour of agriculture projects in the area. "We have good soils here that do not even require fertiliser but within the past few years our harvest has been reduced by the hippos," he told the visitors. Chimkomanje said one villager was admitted to hospital from injuries he sustained from a hippo while he was protecting his farm. Salima is among 11 districts in Malawi currently affected by severe flooding, and the situation is further complicated by army worms that have gnawed several hectares of crop fields.

Blantyre, Malawi - University of Malawi is to re-open 18 February, after a two-month closure following a violent student unrest that led to the death of one student. Humprey Mvula, chair of the Commission of inquiry into the unrest, told a press conference in Blantyre Wednesday that the University, shut 17 December, would reopen after a period of serious "soul-searching". "We have found out that several factors led to the ugly events in December," he said. Mvula, flanked by the University Vice-Chancellor, David Rubadiri and other senior staff, said indiscipline, fuelled by political influence, caused the violence. The School was closed following a week of violent student unrest after police opened fire to break a student demonstration in the University town of Zomba, some 68-KM east of Blantyre. The students had earlier joined other citizens protesting what they called rising cost of the national staple, maize, as well as the arrest of government critics and the death in police custody of reggae musician, Evison Matafale. A student and a police officer's son, were hit by live bullets in the process. The student, Fanikiso Phiri, later died from the wounds at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre 17 December. Mvula said 16 students arrested in connection with the crisis would not be allowed back in campus until their case was cleared in court. He described the unrest as part of a series of events that has eroded discipline among University students in Malawi. Mvula also said that "certain things" previously enjoyed by students had disappeared due to economic constraints. But he assured that the University "is working on ways to avoid a repeat of the unprecedented events in December."

Blantyre, Malawi - A least 7,500 teachers die of AIDS-related illnesses each year in Malawi further straining government resources in this already under-staffed sector. According to the controller of human resources and development, Aubrey Mvula, the incurable disease kills between 6 and 8 percent of the education ministry's estimated 60,000 employees each year. Although teachers are supposed to be opinion leaders, Mvula said, they have resisted changing their behaviour. "Most teachers resist changing their moral behaviour but I think it's time to change and talk about it now," he said. Local analysts say most teachers give up on life and become reckless because of repressive conditions under which they work. For starters, teachers are the most under-paid lot in Malawi. Currently, a primary school teachers gets about 30 US dollars a month while those who teach in secondary schools do not make anything beyond 70 US dollars. The ministry of education has come under increasing pressure to incorporate HIV/AIDS into the school curriculum, which the Director of secondary education Charles Gunsaru said had not been revised since 1989. "A revision would help us incorporate the social, political and economic changes that have taken place," Gunsaru said. Meanwhile, the country's two largest referral hospitals run out of anti-retroviral drugs. Publicity officer for the AIDS Counselling and Training Society John Chisi said there was a danger that people living with AIDS could develop a resistance to anti-retrovirals if they missed the drugs for too long. "We just hope the delay (in delivery) won't take longer than a month," he said. The Queen Elizabeth and Lilongwe central hospitals ran out of the drugs after the Treasury failed to deposit money into the accountant general's account in time. Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital's director Ibrahim Idala said he was optimistic the life-prolonging drugs would be available in a few weeks time but could not specify a date. He said the two hospitals provided anti-retrovirals to about 400 patients at a heavily-subsided cost of 30 US dollars per month.

Blantyre, Malawi - Floods have displaced close to 10,000 people from 1,500 families in Malawi's central lakeshore district of Salima and the northern border district of Karonga. Whole families of the displaced are currently camping in church and school buildings. Most of them have lost almost everything and have not eaten anything in days. Salima district's development Officer Austin Kaunda said the floods destroyed 187 houses in Chief Ndindi area. "Several other houses have also been partly damaged and it's risky for people to continue living in them" . He also said the floods washed away 1,102 hectares of maize, rice and cassava fields. Many livestock, including chicken and goats, have not been accounted for. The development officer said that following an average of 102 millimetres or rain daily for the entire week, River Dzongwe burst its banks. A railway line has also been washed away, making relief efforts a nightmare. Two weeks ago, floods had swept a bridge away in the area. Group Village Headman Khwidzi said his subjects were sleeping when they heard angry noises of water roaring down the hill in the early hours of the day. "I believe the flash-floods were induced by four cracks in Nchocholo Hills that sent water gushing out, inundating the river," he said. Flash-floods are shrouded in myths in Malawi. It is believed that an angry wild animal accompanies the gushing water, exacerbating the destruction in its wake. Meanwhile, the Malawian First Lady, Patricia Shanil Muluzi, has come to the rescue of thousands of displaced people in Karonga. She distributed an assortment of relief items including maize flour, cooking utensils and bedding. Khwauli Msiska, an opposition Alliance for Democracy parliamentarian in the area, told journalists that more than 3000 families had lost everything and "have to replant their gardens if hunger is to be averted this year." In a related development, a storm has destroyed at least 72 houses on the remote island of Chisi in the southern district of Zomba leaving several families homeless and hungry. An 18-year-old woman and her daughter were injured when the rain storm hit the remote island.

Blantyre, Malawi - Doctors at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) are still monitoring the siamese twins born on Christmas Day at Mwanza District Hospital and undecided on the operation to separate them. The twins, who turned 31 days yesterday, according to Hospital Director Ibrahim Idana, were in good health and that doctors were monitoring them to see what to do next. Asked about the possibilities of the operation by the local hospital, Idana said they are still undecided. Hospital Administrator Daisy Mbalame also said the siamese twins were fine and are growing healthy. But a nurse working in the nursery disclosed that the twins developed sores because they can only sleep on one side. She, however, said medication was applied to cure the sores. Three weeks ago a surgeon, Erick Borgstein, told Daily Times that doctors were set to operate on the twins in two or three months' time. The female siamese twins who are joined at the belly below the sternum, have two hands each, three legs and are using the same excretion organ. Their mother Esnart Dickson, 42, gave birth through Ceasarian operation. The family had earlier in January called for support from the general public financially should the doctors recommend that the twins be operated out of the country.

Lilongwe, Malawi - A big crisis meeting is underway in Lilongwe to seek ways to avert a recurrence of the critical food crisis that hit Malawi this year. The meeting is being held against the backdrop of reports that at least 10 children were being admitted daily to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital for hunger-related illnesses, and that up to 60 of them have already died. Opening the meeting, Agriculture minister Aleke Banda said Malawi was failing to achieve food security because poverty has not been addressed. "Agriculture contributes 30 to 40 per cent of GDP and 90 per cent of the country's foreign exchange [and] will therefore remain the major source of growth," he said, arguing that because agriculture has remained stagnant the economy has equally stood still. Banda said his ministry has devised what is being called the Malawi Agriculture Sector Investment Process (MASIP) to revolutionise agriculture in the country. The two-day meeting has brought together agriculturists, farmers and civil rights groups, the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agriculture Development. It is discussing ways to improve irrigation land from 8 000 to 40 000 hectares within the next three years. Malawi's agriculture development is also being hampered by high population density. At 170 people per square km Malawi has one of the highest population densities in Africa. But, despite having approximately 10 million hectares of arable land available for farming, only 5.3 million hectares is being used. Even as the technocrats are discussing the future, the current food crisis in Malawi is degenerating. Maize husks, on which many poor families now survive, are becoming increasingly hard to come by.The situation is said to be desperate in rural areas where people are reportedly eating armyworms to survive.

Blantyre, Malawi - At least 44 people have been confirmed dead following an outbreak of cholera in two of Malawi's three regions. The Chief Health Education Officer in the Ministry of Health, Jonathan Nkhoma, said in Blantyre on Sunday that 425 cholera patients were being treated in the central and southern regions. He said that the southern lakeshore district of Mangochi is the most affected area. "There has been no reported cholera case in the northern region," Nkhoma said. Nkhoma noted that cholera is worse in the southern region because Lake Chilwa has been contaminated. He said since the lake has no outlet, all wastes from the uplands are concentrated in it thereby creating ideal conditions for the breeding of the cholera-causing bacteria. "The reservoir of cholera is Lake Chilwa because it is an inland lake which is also salty and these conditions favour the breeding of the bacteria which causes the disease," the education officer said. However, environmentalists have expressed a different opinion saying cholera is getting out of hand due to lack of enough toilets. A recent environmental survey showed that most health centres in the country had only one toilet catering for cholera and non-cholera patients as well as guardians. This, makes transmission of the disease both easy and fast, the survey stated. Nkhoma also attributed the spread of the disease tothe traditional practice of washing the corpses of cholera victims. "Corpses of cholera victims are supposed to be encased in a plastic bag which has then to be buried without opening it," he said. But most mourners in Malawi insist on making the body to lie in state. This, the Chief Health Education Officer said, makes mourners susceptible to catching the disease.

Blantyre, Malawi - As the shortage of food becomes severe in Malawi, at least 60 children have died from hunger-related illnesses while an average of 10 others are admitted daily for similar reasons, health officials revealed Saturday. Ibrahim Idana, director at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, told journalists that most of the children come to the hospital emaciated from days of hunger. "All beds in the children's ward are taken up by children with severe cases of malnutrition and dehydration," he said. On Saturday pathetic scenes were witnessed at the hospital in some cases with whole families camping there hoping to share the food their admitted children receive. Idrissa Kombe, whose two children are both admitted for malnutrition, said he, his wife and two teenage children are camping at the hospital. A peasant farmer, Kombe said he could no longer afford the very high price charged for a small bag of maize and maize husks which his family has been surviving on. "We have no choice but to camp here and eat whatever my admitted sons get," he said. Kombe's story is just one of the many heart-rending stories throughout the country. In most rural districts, where several hunger-related deaths largely go unreported, people are surviving on wild fruits and green bananas and sugarcane. Agriculture minister Aleke Banda said the government was exerting hard efforts to import maize. But such efforts are creating logistical nightmares after Uganda, which originally agreed to sell Malawi 60000 metric tonnes of maize, pulled out at the 11th hour. Several wagons conveying maize from South Africa to Malawi are stuck in Mozambique due to railway congestion.

Blantyre, Malawi - Malawi police have withdrawn at least 114 traffic officers from the streets following wide-spread allegations of corruption. The measure follows a swoop by the newly appointed Inspector General of Police, Joseph Aironi, and other senior aides who,after receiving several complaints of traffic police harassment, went out in mufti to see for themselves. While waiting in a queue at a traffic check-point, Aironi watched as a traffic police officer demanded a bribe from a motorist whose vehicle was not roadworthy, before personally stripping the erring officer of his uniform. "I want to make sure that unnecessary road accidents are prevented on Malawi's roads," he said. Malawi, despite having comparatively fewer cars plying its roads, is billed to top the record of traffic accidents in the entire southern African region. Aironi said most road accidents occur because of non-roadworthy vehicles that are allowed on the roads by corrupt traffic officers. Police spokesman Oliver Soko said initial investigations show that most of the removed traffic officers do not even have the necessary training in traffic policing. "In several cases it has been discovered that most of them simply connive with their station officers to be deployed on the streets in order to solicit bribes," he said. Soko said the fake traffic officers would in turn share the spoils with their bosses. He said most of the alleged corrupt and untrained traffic police officers have been sanctioned, while others are still being probed.



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