Malawi is a landlocked country in East Africa bordered by Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. The country has been referred to as the “warm heart of Africa”, and is well-known for its astonishing natural beauty. The Lake Malawi National Park and Chongoni Rock Art Area are both listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

Population estimate (2018): 19,421,460

Capital City: Lolongwe

Currency used: Malawi Kwacha

Gross National Income per capita (2013) (PPP international $): 1,18

Time zone: UTC + 2

Population growth rate (2018): 2.91%

Total fertility rate per woman: 4.57

Languages: Chewa, English

Key ethnic groups: Include Chewa, Nyanja, Yeo, Tumbuka, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni and Ngonde.

Religion: Estimated 68% Christian, 25% Muslim.

Literacy: 61%

Climate: Malawi has a subtropical climate with 3 main seasons; a warm, wet and rainy season from November to April, a cool and dry season from May to August with average temperatures ranging between 17ºc and 27ºc , and a hot and dry season from September to October where average temperatures range between 25ºc and 37ºc.

Health statistics:

Life expectancy at birth (2016): 61/67 (male/female)

Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years: 312/203 (per 1000 population, 2016)

Total expenditure on health per capita (2014): $93

Number of doctors per 1000 population (2009): 0.018

Nursing and midwifery personnel density (per 1000 population, 2009): 0.336

Neonatal mortality rate (per 1000 live births, 2016): 23.1 [17.6-30.3]

Maternal mortality ratio (per 100.000 live births, 2015): 634 [422-1080]

Births attended by skilled health personnel (2015): 89.8%

Top 10 causes of death:

HIV/AIDS: 36,329 people / 26.47% of total

Influenza and pneumonia: 11,835 / 8.62%

Diarrhoeal diseases: 9,093 / 6.62%

Malaria: 7,527 / 5.48%

Coronary heart disease: 5,986 / 4.36%

Road traffic accidents: 5,884 / 4.29%

Low birth weight: 5,251 / 3.83%

Stroke: 5.080 / 3.70%

Birth trauma: 4,105 / 2.99%

Healthcare system

The healthcare system in Malawi consists of public and private sectors. The government offers free healthcare to nationals, however, the public services are severely underfunded, resulting in compromised quality of facilities and care, infrastructure challenges, and shortages of medical professionals,  supplies and equipment.

The public healthcare system, which is funded by the government and international aid, is organised in a three-tier system. The third tier is usually the communities’ first point of contact with the healthcare system. It comprises a large network of rural health centres and hospitals. These facilities have very scarce resources available, and very often lack basic medical supplies and staff. This is because the tier-system is designed so that the first tier is the primary recipient of funds, resources and supplies. When the most pressing needs of the first tier are met, the remaining resources are allocated to the second tier, followed by the third tier at the bottom. This arrangements means that there are often little to no resources left for the third tier. The second tier consists of district hospitals located in the 27 districts of Malawi. District hospitals usually have more basic health supplies than rural health centres, but they are still relatively under-resourced and often lack qualified physicians. Instead, nurses and clinical officers work at these hospitals. The third tier has the highest standard of facilities, and these hospitals are located in the major urban areas. They have the most advanced equipment and supplies, and the highest trained professionals.

The private sector is made up of private for-profit clinics and not-for-profit health facilities run by charities or NGOs. The private for-profit clinics are located in urban areas and are usually too expensive for the majority of the population. Many of the not-for-profit facilities offer free treatment or more affordable prices. The use of traditional medicine practitioners and healers is also very common in Malawi. These have their own private practices and are especially common in rural villages.