People sometimes ask us why we bother with trying to help people and animals in African nations, particularly the ones that no one else knows much about, like Malawi. The answer is simple. No one knows much about these places. What we’ve learned in our travels is that many people, places, plants, and animals are in dire need of assistance. Their prospects for solving their own problems can be slim to none.
It seems to come down to this – if a country has something that someone else wants (ivory, minerals, gas and oil, for example), that country will have a spotlight focused on it. But there are countries, and some remote parts of better-known countries, that have no resources to be exploited. And that means they get ignored. Rwanda received attention only after experiencing horrors beyond words and is still struggling to establish a viable national economy that is not dependent on foreign aid.
Malawi is one of those countries . . . often called the warm heart of Africa, Malawi’s people are friendly and welcoming. But this tiny country that has lost a great deal of its natural areas to farmland and much of its native wildlife is not known as a tourism destination. It has no significant resources that any other country wants. And so its people suffer silently because they do not have a global voice.
One of our friends and colleagues in Malawi contacted us this week with a plea for assistance that I would like to bring to light because this is not a story that will be covered in the news. I’ve been watching for it and there’s been no mention, though this event happened over a week ago now. CNN, AlJazeera and the many other international news networks miss this kind of story because it is in one of the planet’s poorest nations, preferring to report on politics and celebrities.
Aaron Maluwa, who works for Museums of Malawi, regularly visits rural communities with programs that focus on HIV/AIDS awareness and testing, antimalarial messages, and other important health and cultural issues. On his most recent visit to a rural village in the Chikwawa District, he found 1993 families living in seven tents where people were “sleeping like potatoes in a basket” because the space was too small. The 5409 individuals Aaron found there had no food. A local sugar company is providing one cup of maize (corn) for each family per day and that is all the food currently available. The clinic has at least 15 patients in each room and people are already dying for lack of food. Aaron witnessed one death while he was standing stunned by what these people are going through. The flood came at night, surprising the village. The survivors stayed in trees for two days before the government rescuers could retrieve them.
Aaron did what he could on the ground immediately with appeals to local authorities but he has very limited funds and resources with which to work. He made this appeal in his email: I am therefore requesting for your support mainly with funds so that we can buy them food i.e maize, mosquito nets, blankets, kitchen untensils just to keep them alive as they wait for water levels to go down so that they can go back a start afresh but with no starting point at all. Let me emphasize that this is an emergency what I saw last week is that many lives are at stake especially of children and the aged in absence of food and other basic necessities such as blankets and mosquito nets
Aaron has never asked for anything though his innovative and important program needs regular support. We have done what we could over the years to help and proceeds from the sale of our book “The Leopard Tree” are earmarked for assistance to Malawi. In this case, the need clearly outstrips our ability to help financially so we are trying to raise awareness and ask others for whatever assistance they can offer. We have contacted Rotary International to see if something can be done to help this situation and are waiting to hear the result. If you are interested in doing whatever you can, please get in touch with us and I will see that your efforts are directed to do the most good. Thanks for staying aware.