Our work in Malawi

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Our work in Malawi

Concern has been working in Malawi since 2002 supporting communities with combined emergency response, livelihoods, healthcare, nutrition, and education programmes.

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Current drought & food crisis

In April 2016, the President of Malawi declared a national disaster due to the ongoing drought and the country’s worst crop failure in a generation. The significantly reduced harvest in 2016 is a consequence of El Niño, made worse by climate change and the flooding experienced in the country in 2015. 6.5 million people – one in three Malawians – are now in need of assistance.

Mary Nsona and Agatha Blam are farmers from Jimu village in Nsanje District, Southern Malawi. When the rains failed completely in 2016, they harvested nothing. Photo by Caoimhe Debarra/Concern Worldwide.

Emergency responses to food crisis

Malawi is vulnerable to natural disasters such as drought and flooding, and climate change poses a significant threat. In 2017, Malawi experienced a food security crisis brought about by the El Nino induced drought 2015/2016 and severe flooding of 2015. In total, 6.5 million people – one in three Malawians – were in need of assistance.

Concern and its partners in a Consortium led by Save the Children is currently implementing a cash transfer response which aims to reach over 250,000 beneficiaries in total (the other consortium partners are Concern Universal, GOAL and Oxfam). This response, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), will help people affected by this crisis by providing cash so that people can buy food and support their recovery.

As part of the response, we will be helping people to plant for the next rainy seasons in a way which optimises the use of available rainfall and builds up soil fertility, so as to break the cycle of food insecurity for these communities.

A women stands in flood waters in Nsanje District, Malawi. Photographer: Deborah Underdown/Feb 2015/Malawi

In the same consortium, we are also implementing an ongoing project supported by the European Commission (ECHO) which is focusing on food security to benefit more than 174,000 people. With funding from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Concern is also supporting more than 22,000 people in Nsanje district to strengthen their ability to meet their immediate food and nutrition needs, improve livelihoods and increase resilience.

Concern is also implementing an emergency nutrition response which aims to identify children at risk of malnutrition and ensure they get the treatment and care that they need as quickly and efficiently as possible. This will help them to remain strong and healthy and prevent the devastating lifelong consequences of malnutrition on young children’s mental and physical development.

Engaging men in supporting gender equality

We believe that one of the most important ways to change the lives of girls and women for the better is by influencing and changing the attitudes of men. Here are two case studies from Concern Malawi.

With funding from Comic Relief, Concern is implementing a three-year School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) programme in Phalombe District. In partnership with two national NGOs, Theatre for a Change (TfaC) and Women’s Legal Resource Centre (WOLREC), Concern aims to support girls to achieve their right to education and freedom from gender based violence (GBV). Through this programme, Concern is working to address the attitudes that drive this type of violence and girls’ exclusion from education. We also aim to improve the quality of education for the girls who are most at risk, and support better access to justice for survivors of SRGBV.

Improving nutrition

In efforts to reduce stunting and malnutrition, Concern works in close collaboration with Malawi’ Department of Health, Nutrition and HIV/AIDs by improving access to high quality nutrition services.

In 2017, Concern supported emergency nutrition activities designed to increase quality of Community Management Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) serviced in Nsanje district with support from UNICEF. As part of global study lead by IRC, Concern piloted the feasibility of treating severe acute malnutrition as part of an integrated response by Health Surveillance Assistants. The study is generating evidence on the treatment of malnutrition outside of the health centre. 

Mother of two, Josephina Oscar. Josephina, aged 24, is a “lead mother” from the village of Zizwa, Malawi. Concern is supporting her to teach mothers about the benefits of good nutrition, breastfeeding, etc. Photo: Aoife O'Grady/Concern Worldwide.

In 2017, through World Bank funder project, community care groups, directly supported more than 50,000 women and 37,000 children. Read the story of Josephina and Ireen – two of the thousands of Malawian mothers working with Concern to empower their communities to improve nutrition.

Concern is also the Chair of Malawi’s Civil Society Organisations’ Nutrition Alliance ( CSONA ) which plays a critical role in nutrition interventions in Malawi.

Maternal health hotline

The Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (Health Centre by Phone) hotline is an mHealth innovation in Malawi which provides free phone-based health advice, particularly in relation to maternal, neonatal and child health issues. In a country like Malawi with one of the highest rates of maternal, child, and infant mortality rates in the world, knowing where to go for care – and when to seek it – are integral to reducing maternal and child mortality rates. Find out more.

Skillz Malawi

Teenagers taking part in Concern Worldwide's Skillz program in Nkhotakota, Malawi. Photo taken by Kieran McConville / Concern Worldwide.

We are also working with Skillz Malawi to raise awareness of HIV prevention and reproductive health with young people. Using the established Grassroots Soccer curriculum, the programme is designed to engage young people through the medium of soccer and to help educate them in matters of gender, reproductive health, and relationships. So far, more than 95% of the young women who have completed the Skillz course have received HIV counselling and testing. This is a significant achievement, as women often don’t learn their HIV status until they’re attending ante-natal pregnancy classes.

Moving out of extreme poverty

In January 2017, Concern began a five-year graduation programme in Nsanje and Mangochi districts. This programme, funded by Irish Aid and based on Concern’s Graduation Model, supports the poorest households to move themselves out of extreme poverty. In late 2017, 200 households were selected as the first cohort of the Gradution programme through a participative community process.

Participants in the programme receive cash transfers to meet their basic needs, as well as skills training and coaching to develop strong and sustainable livelihoods. Households in the programme are then supported with a capital transfer to jump-start their new mini-business or agricultural venture.

Participants also join Village Savings and Loans Associations or more formal financial institutions. This way they can manage risks, build resilience and avoid resorting to negative coping strategies, such as the sale of necessary assets or removing children from school.

Community engagement

As part of this programme, Concern is working with the Civil Society Advocacy Network to promote climate smart agriculture, particularly conservation agriculture. In partnership with the International Potato Center, we are helping to address malnutrition by promoting the consumption of the micro-nutrient rich orange-fleshed sweet potato. We are also working with the wider community to address gender inequalities.

The aim is to promote self-reliance and build resilience so that these communities ultimately don’t need our support in the long-term.

In depth