VSO’s programme is concentrating on HIV and AIDS, health and social wellbeing, secure livelihoods (food security) and education in seven rural and remote districts. The districts were chosen due to their excessive poverty levels, high prevalence of HIV and AIDS, and low involvement of other international charities.
HIV and AIDS
HIV and AIDS is Malawi’s greatest challenge. More than one in 10 Malawians is HIV positive, life expectancy is only 55 years, and 150,000 people are in urgent need of anti-retroviral treatment, but there are only 1.6 doctors and 28.6 nurses per 100,000 people in Malawi to administer care.
Volunteers are working with agencies that campaign to raise awareness and combat stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, support prevention and increase the availability of treatment, care and support for those infected and affected by the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Volunteers working in this area include business professionals who are improving management functions of community-based organisations, medical staff who are supporting the roll-out of anti-retroviral treatment, and community rehabilitation therapists offering advice on care, treatment and counselling.
Health and social wellbeing
As part of a joint initiative with the Malawi government, the UK Department for International Development and United Nations Volunteers, VSO is recruiting an increased number of skilled and experienced volunteer doctors, nurse trainers and laboratory technologists to boost the skills of health professionals in the country as part of a human resources for health policy reform plan.
Secure livelihoods activity works to ensure people with the smallest plots of land, particularly female-headed households and people living with HIV and AIDS, can feed their families and earn a living by making the best use of their land. There is a focus on training people to use the most productive agricultural techniques to grow high-value crops that will make the most income. Agricultural experts are working in local government extension services to improve farming methods, while business volunteers support farmer associations in areas such as business management and marketing.
Although primary education in Malawi is now free, there is a severe shortage of qualified teachers, with an average pupil–teacher ratio of about 100:1. Although there are three million children registered at primary school, only 18 per cent enter secondary school and less than five per cent will ever receive tertiary education, which has the potential to severely impact Malawi’s future. Additionally, although 52 per cent of the population is female less than half of primary school children are girls and just five per cent of those completing tertiary education are young women.
VSO is supporting the Government of Malawi to improve education access, equity and quality as a right for young people. Working with civil society agencies, volunteers are influencing the development, implementation and dissemination of relevant policies for a better education environment. Volunteers are also working with District Education Offices to implement and facilitate teacher training programmes that ensure teaching methods are inspiring for children and encourage them to stay in school.
VSO Malawi is now exploring opportunities for national volunteering by supporting agencies that work through local volunteers. Initially this will focus on the HIV and AIDS programme, but will eventually roll out across all areas of work.
Get in touch with VSO Malawi at:
Private bag B300, Capital City, Lilongwe 3, Malawi