Focus on Malawi

We have been building and working with church initiatives in Malawi since 1882.

Population: 14.9 million

Capital: Lilongwe

Languages: English, Chichewa

Landscapes are varied, from wetlands and lakes to mountains and forests. National parks and game reserves beckon visitors.

Religion: Christianity, Islam

Export: Tobacco, tea, sugar, cotton

Malawi is under constant threat of famine. It is prone to drought and heavy rainfall, both of which can destroy crops and leave families hungry.

A quarter of Malawi’s population survive on just one meagre meal a day.

Nearly one million people in Malawi are living with HIV. This includes 11 per cent of adults, which has a serious impact on the working population.


In Malawi, the Anglican Church is supporting education, health, income generation, care for the environment and gender rights

A national church programme, supported by USPG, will benefit communities in all  four dioceses of Malawi – namely the Dioceses of Northern Malawi, Lake Malawi, Upper Shire and Southern Malawi.

There are four main areas of focus: education for girls, protecting livelihoods, management of the environment, and hygiene and sanitation. In addition, there will be an across-the-board focus on gender equality and issues relating to HIV and AIDS.

In each case, the church will work closely with local government departments, media outlets, health institutions, Mothers’ Union groups, and the beneficiary communities themselves.

The programme – officially titled the Anglican Church of Malawi Community Integrated Intervention (ACMCII) Project – will operate at parish level among communities deemed most in need.

USPG is also supporting the work of a number of Anglican health institutions.

Education for girls

In Malawi, girls are less likely to receive an education than boys and are therefore more likely to be illiterate. It is estimated that only 35 per cent of girls complete primary school.

Soon after they start menstruating, many girls are sexually initiated by men or become sexually active. As a consequence, many girls drop out of school due to pregnancy or they are withdrawn from school by their parents to be married.

If girls return to education, they will need to repeat years – as a result those who progress through the system will take much longer than boys.

Cultural perceptions favour education for boys over girls. Due to poverty, girls are often kept in the home to help with chores or care for younger sibling.

All of this affects the self-esteem of women, and there is not surprisingly a low representation of women in leadership positions.

In response, the church is working with partners to:

Management of the environment

Environment degradation is widespread in Malawi. Ninety per cent of households use wood for fuel, leading to extensive deforestation. Indeed, Malawi has one of the highest rates of annual deforestation in Africa. The lack of wooded land leads to soil erosion and the siltation of rivers, which in turn contributes to flooding, which has been widespread in Malawi.

In addition, with a high density population largely relying on traditional farming practices, nutrients in the soil are being depleted and not restored.

Other environmental concerns include the unsafe disposal of sewage due to a lack of toilets, which leads to poor sanitation and the prevalence of waterborne diseases. There is also unsafe disposal of plastic bags and other hazardous waste products.

In response, the church is working with partners to:

Hygiene and sanitation

Many rural communities in Malawi have severely limited access to safe drinking water.

Water sources are often contaminated because there is open defecation due to a lack of toilet facilities.

This lack of sanitation leads to the spread of diseases.

In response, the church is working with partners to:

Protecting livelihoods

Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 174 out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index. An estimated 74 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Reasons for poverty include limited access to education, services and economic opportunities for much of the population. In addition, rural people tend to live in areas with few roads or means of transport, which limits economic opportunities.

Furthermore, almost 30 per cent of poor children do not even start primary school, which is free in Malawi, while secondary and higher education is largely confined to non-poor households due to the cost of fees.

A low income means families are unable to afford food or adequate housing.

More than a third of rural households earn an income from farming or fishing. An additional 25 per cent supplement work on their farms with other jobs, largely as agricultural labourers.

The recurrence of shocks – such as crop failures, extreme weather and rises in food prices – frustrates attempts to escape rural poverty.

In response, the church is working with partners to:

Issues relating to HIV and AIDS and gender

All of the work of the church in Malawi is carried out with a particular concern to address issues relating to HIV and AIDS and gender.

Issues of gender inequality have been shown to result in women feeling powerless, experiencing poor health, and not realising their potential.

In response, the church in Malawi will raise awareness of the issue and ensure that women are not ignored by programmes.

Regarding HIV and AIDS, it is known that government services and other resources for people living with HIV are often inadequate or fail to reach rural communities – often due to poor roads and a lack of infrastructure, such as electricity supplies.

This has an impact on poverty and under-development because, when not treated, people with HIV become less productive and struggle to support their families while needing to pay for special diets and medical care.

As a result, households become poorer, children are sometimes withdrawn from school and told to work, some women turn to prostitution to earn a living, and, as people struggle to cope, instances of drug and alcohol abuse and crime increase.

Therefore, the church has a deep concern to factor in the plight of people living with HIV as it implements development programmes.


Support for Anglican hospitals:

St Anne’s Hospital, in Nkhotakota, on the shores of Lake Malawi (Diocese of Northern Malawi), serves a rural population of 230,000.

St Luke’s Hospital, in Malosa, in the Diocese of Upper Shire, was founded in the 1940s as a medical centre for missionaries. Since then it has been rebuilt and opened to the general population. The hospital is home to a nursing school, with 30 students qualifying each year.

St Peter’s Hospital, on Likoma Island in Lake Malawi, serves the island’s 15,000 population, as well as patients from Mozambique who cross a narrow channel to reach the island.


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Martyr Chowdhury, Rajshahi Hospital


'It is vital the church is involved in healthcare. We can touch people’s hearts.'

Martyr Chowdhury, Rajshahi Hospital


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