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Malawi - Introduction

Fiery sunlight glittering from Lake Nyasa gave the name Malawi land of flaming waters to an ancient Bantu empire. Present-day descendants revived the name when the British Protectorate of Nyasaland became independent in 1964.

Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa, described by its peace, stability and the friendliness of its citizens. Apparently one of the largest fresh bodies of water in the world exists in it, which is also the third largest lake in Africa. In addition, it is also a well known exporter of tea and sugar to most developed countries as it depends on rain fed agriculture for its economy sustainability. No wonder 85 percent of its 17.5 million plus population consists of farmers living in rural areas.

Malawi has an abundance of beautiful landscapes spanning dramatic river valleys, forested highlands, and sensational plateaus. It is also home to one of the largest lakes in the world, Lake Malawi, where visitors are often surprised to find palm-fringed shores that border a tropical paradise as far as the eye can see. This natural beauty is paired with exceptionally warm-hearted people who have inspired the countrys nickname, the Warm Heart of Africa. Malawians greet every visitor and neighbor with smiles and genuine hospitality.

Malawi faces many challenges: infrastructure is weak, poverty and hunger are common, health status is low, educational opportunities are limited, the economy is struggling, and there have been problems of accountability and transparency. Malawi marked 50 year of independence on 06 July 2014. A half century on, many Malawians still live in poverty. The country itself continues begging for contributions, with 40 percent of its budget coming from international donors. More than 65 percent of the countrys residents live below the poverty level of less than $2 a day. The surge in Malawis population rising from 4 million in 1964 to 15 million in 2014 is one reason for such high poverty levels.

Despite being independent for 51 years now, it has a record of the highest number of new born deaths with an approximation of 17 babies born in a day unlikely to survive for 48 hours, and the question still remains, until when will it still depend on agriculture for its economy sustainability as effects of climate change that is referred to as a change in the typical or average weather or average temperature of a region for a given season, have and are already impacting on it negatively? This is Malawi, a land locked country situated in southern Africa.

Uncontrolled cutting down of trees for charcoal used as the number one substitute for electricity in Malawi is also contributing to climate change, apparently most Malawians are victims of frequent power outages with a maximum of 6 and a minimum of 3 hours per day.

The staple food in Malawi is maize (corn), prepared as a thick porridge called nsima and eaten with vegetables or beans. Many fruits and vegetables grow in Malawi and, with a little creativity, provide a widely varied diet. Fruits and vegetables are available in-season, which means some things will not be available at the market year round. Meat and dairy products are available in the towns, though they can be expensive. Vegetarians are able to eat well in Malawi after becoming familiar with local food items and their preparation. Most Malawians do not understand vegetarianism and will not normally be prepared to serve a vegetarian meal.

Medical facilities are rudimentary. While all health workers have some degree of English proficiency, communication can be difficult. Diarrhea and other food borne illnesses are a common problem. Visitors should avoid tap water, ice cubes, and raw fruits and vegetables. Bottled water is recommended for drinking and food preparation. Consume only food that is well-cooked and served hot. Many medications are not available.

Spontaneous civil disturbances and demonstrations, primarily related to governance and economic issues can occur. These may become more common leading up to, and immediately following elections in Malawi. Carjackings occur especially in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Carjackers often block the rear of a victims vehicle while it waits to pass through a security gate into a residence and then assailants will threaten the driver and take the car. Victims are sometimes assaulted. City streets should be considered unsafe after dark even when walking in a large group. Pedestrians should also be cautious during daylight hours. Visitors in need of transportation should request that hotel or restaurant management call a taxi or car service.

Most roads do not have sidewalks, forcing pedestrians and livestock to use the roadways both day and night. Secondary roads are poorly lit, in disrepair, and may be impassable to all but four-wheel drive vehicles during the November-April rainy season. Safety hazards include the lack of road shoulders, potholes, pedestrians, bicyclists, and livestock. The most important safety issue is travel on the roads. Public transport in Malawi is rudimentary to say the least. Vehicles are often in poor condition, overcrowded, and travel too fast. The roads themselves are often in a state of disrepair. It is important to use common sense in these situations. Motor vehicle accidents are the most common cause of death among travelers to Malawi.





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