This East African nation is known for stability. But drought and rising prices are fueling insecurity that activists say is driving tens of thousands of peasants into the arms of insurgents battling a president who has been in power for 20 years.
In its most recent annual report, UNICEF said nearly 14,000 children died of preventable causes between July 2013 and July 2014. The number was more than the 3,500 recorded in the previous year. The report said 3.4 million children were at risk of acute malnutrition in the same period.
“Insecurity remains a major challenge for all Malawians, regardless of political affiliation or belief,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in a statement.
“If left uncorrected, this insecurity will undermine vital public services, threaten Malawian children’s rights and lives, and contribute to a significant human rights crisis.”
Mr. Lake said he visited Malawi two months ago and immediately began organizing a two-day roundtable conference to help resolve the security threat to children.
The meeting will gather representatives from government, civil society organizations, and the United Nations Development Partners, government officials and civil society representatives. The meeting is scheduled for the end of April.
“This meeting is a step in the right direction, and a way for Malawians to show that we are united,” he said. “Now is the time to get to the root causes of insecurity within the country.”
“This is a long-term challenge that needs to be addressed and solved.”
In a country with little industry and almost no roads, the economy depends on agriculture. In the past half-century, Malawi has gone from being an agricultural basket case to becoming a leader in Africa in terms of agricultural productivity. To improve its standard of living, the government has focused on food, education, health, housing, and infrastructure.
The government is investing heavily in education and in health. Between 2005 and 2015, government spending on all three increased by about 60 percent.
But that investment is now paying off, in part because of the economic growth the government has seen over the past few years. Government spending is up 40 percent. In 2014, an estimated $2.9 billion of investment was done in health and education, compared with about $1.5 billion