About Malawi

Malawi, the warm heart of Africa

Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa, bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast and Mozambique to the east, south and west. It is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. The total area of Malawi is 118,484 km², of which more than 20% is water. Lilongwe is its capital and largest city.

The total population is 16,777,547 (July 2013), and the population density is one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa (WHO, 2013).  Ethnic groups include Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, and Ngonde people, as well as Asians and Europeans. Major languages include Chichewa, an official language spoken by over 57% of the population, English, Chinyanja, Chiyao, and Chitumbuka. Other native languages are Malawian Lomwe, Kokola, Lambya, Ndali, Nyakyusa-Ngonde, Malawian Sena, and Tonga.

In 1891, the British created the protectorate of Nyasaland.  In 1964, this became the independent nation of Malawi. After three decades of one-party rule under President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the country held multiparty elections in 1994. Malawi was ruled by President Dr. Bakili Muluzi until 2004, and then by Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, who died of a heart attack in 2012. Vice-President Joyce Banda took over until the late president’s brother, Peter Mutharika, won the May 2014 presidential election.

The economy relies on agriculture and is highly vulnerable to climatic conditions. The main export products are tobacco, tea, cotton, sugar cane and ground nuts.

As a low income country, Malawi bears a heavy burden of disease, with high levels of child and adult mortality, and a high prevalence of tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS and other tropical diseases. Furthermore, there is a growing burden of chronic, non-communicable diseases such as cancers, diabetes, pulmonary and cardiovascular conditions.

Salima, where the new maternity unit is based, is a district in the Central Region of Malawi, with the main town also called Salima. The district covers 2,196 km² and has a population of 248,214. Lifuwu, home of the Kudimba project, is a small fishing village in the Salima district, on the shore of Lake Malawi.