How to help Malawi

So a number of people have been asking me about how they can help the situation in Malawi. I think the most important thing to do is to talk about it with people that you know. As awareness increases so will the political and economic will required to help.

I wish the solution, even the short term solution, was just giving money to Malawi, but this is Africa and things are never that simple. Allow me to illustrate.

During the last famine one of Claudia's colleagues decided to help out her husband's family in the village. They drove to the village with 10 bags of maize and delivered it to the family. The next day the family was robbed and the the aunt was killed.

Sadly, this family is ineligible for food aid because they have relatives in the city. Claudia's colleague still helps, but now it is done very secretively, by hand delivering money through trusted sources with no obvious connection to the city. Perhaps the hardest part of all of this is that her husband's mother is raising 10 orphans in the village and there is little they can do to help.

On a larger scale, food aid often gets lost thanks to corrupt chiefs. The chiefs rule everything in village life, and it is not uncommon for them to sign a paper saying that they have received their villages food in return for a bit of cash or another type of favor. The chiefs get drunk, while the children in their village starve. The chiefs are an integral part of the socio-pseduo-political scene of Malawi.

In the short term getting food to these people, even if it is via corrupt chiefs is the only way to do it. World Vision and Oxfam are excellent organizations that you can trust will try their hardest to save lives.

In the long term I think microfinance initiatives like what Opportunity International is doing are going to move Africa out of this cycle of poverty. I admit heavy bias though, as my wife works at Opportunity International Bank of Malawi, and I am writing this post from their office. Yet I can tell you that at this very moment their are hundreds of clients packed into the banking hall, with just a few dollars worth of kwacha. They have come to save their money in a safe place for the ominous future or perhaps to get a loan to start a business that will enable them to triumph over the hungry season. Given proper tools (like financial services) I have genuine hope that Malawians won't have to face another famine.

3 Response to How to help Malawi

  1. Ursula von der Ohe says:

    Hi Mike:
    I have forwarded all the information from you regarding the famine in Malawi to my friends in the U.S. Many times I hear the comments,"there are too many disasters in the world at the moment. One becomes kind of numb." But we cannot become numb. We cannot allow people to die of hunger while we have so much. I am urging all my friends to keep their hearts open and spread the word about the disaster happening in Malawi. We don't want to wait until we see in the newspaper pictures of dying children.
    I will continue to spread the word. Thank you for caring so much about the people of Malawi..

    Love, Ursula

  2. Tatiana Brovko says:


    Thank you for educating us about the situation in Malawi. I wish there was an easy way to easy solution to end starvation and poverty. I have forwarded the information of the growing problem in Malawi to all that I know, so hopefully the people of the world will become aware of the situation, and will try to help resolve it.

    Before Ursula told me of your blog, I did notice a small article on the BBC website talking of the situation in Malawi. Hopefully by making more people aware right now, the situation in Malawi won't have to develop into one similar to what we currently see in the Western Sahara.

    There have been quite a number of world disasters, and they seem to continue to come. But I have faith in mankind- and I think there are lots of people that are willing to help with every single one.

    Even as I write this comment, the whole belly dance community in the San Francisco Bay Area is organizing a huge benefit performance to fundraise money for the famine in the Western Sahara ( It's good to know that there are people that care and there are people who CAN make a difference in this world.



  3. Ursula El-Tawansy says:

    Dear Mike:

    Your information disturbed my peace of mind. I was tempted to resign my sad emotions by telling myself "this problem is too big for me to make a difference", but my conscience didn't let me rest (neither did my best friend Ursula!). I remembered the story of the boy and the starfish, and asked myself "how can I make a difference to at least one starving child"?

    Please let me know where I can send money to help. I'd like to make sure it will directly and immediately benefit the hungry children. I don't want to support a huge red-tape organization which gobbles up donations for their administrative costs.

    I pray that more people will take action in whatever form they can to help ease the suffering in Malawi.

    In Love and Light,


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