Malawi gets Ireland support to improve nutrition in-take

I picked this up from the Nyasa times and wonder what Dr Gary Heavy might have to say. In Áras kate we are trying to reduce sugar intake in porridge,to help with the teeth issues observed by our dental friends.
Malawians are huge sugar eaters.
Ireland on Friday granted over 1.6 million Euros to Malawi, through the UN International Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF), to improve nutrition in-take during the year starting from November 2009.

Irish ambassador to Malawi, Mac Ghabham, said investment in nutrition is vital for social and economic development in Malawi.

“Investment in nutrition is vital for social and economic development of the country. This link has been neglected in other countries but it is not the case in Malawi,” he said.

Gabham said the support is directed at three government priority areas of treatment of acute malnutrition, finalising preparations for the implementation of National Vitamin A Fortification Programme and Intensification of Nutrition Education which are under Malawi’s National Nutrition Policy and Strategy Plan.

UNICEF Malawi Representative, Carrie Auer, said the funding will enable government to scale up nutrition programmes to all 28 districts.

“The funding will also spearhead nutrition education campaign aimed at improving infant feeding and child care practices among caregivers,” she added.

However, Principle Secretary for Nutrition in the Office of President and Cabinet, Dr Marry Shawa (pictured) said the assistance will hasten the process of fortifying sugar in the country with vitamin A and gauge consumer acceptability.

Shawa therefore said a study that has been conducted on sugar fortification has been welcomed by many Malawians; hence part of the money that the Irish government has given Malawi will help the rolling out of sugar fortification in the main sugar plants of Dwangwa and Nchalo

She added that the sugar that will be fortificated will be only used in Malawi and not for export.

Vitamin a deficiency is a major challenge in Malawi and about 60 percent of Malawian under five children,70 percent of women and 57 percent of men suffer from acute vitamin a deficiency that result in loss of the countries energies and productive potential.

Is aid supporting self-serving political activities of NGOs.

Written by Caroline Boin and Julian Harris fron Malawi Sunday Times
Wednesday, 04 November 2009
Aid activists Oxfam complained recently that “it is time for G20 leaders to stand up and deliver the money needed to protect poor people,” as heads of the world’s biggest economies met in Pittsburgh in September. The real problem is that aid is actually rising but much of it never reaches poor countries and, when it does, it causes economic, social and political damage.
In fact, over US$119 billion was budgeted for aid from rich to poor countries this year, up US$16 billion from last year. But about half of that stays with donors in “tied aid” and other domestic spending. “Almost 50p of every pound of donor aid fails to target poverty, but instead aims to meet other donor priorities,” charity and pressure-group ActionAid said in 2006, an estimate largely confirmed in 2008 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Britain budgeted US$8 billion for aid to countries such as Malawi last year but recent research has uncovered numerous examples of waste and mismanagement within government.

The British government pays pressure groups to campaign and lobby governments abroad and citizens at home, at the expense of actual aid projects. This year alone, the Department for International Development (DfID) put £140 million (about US$170 million) in its “communications” budget–much of it propaganda within the UK. By 2011, a total of £1 billion (US$1.2 billion) of public money will have been spent on this. Most of it is given away in unrestricted grants to hand-picked activist groups, with little accountability and transparency – and, worse, little evidence that the programmes are helping the poor.

Many of these are at best controversial and often hostile to development. ActionAid, for example, doing the “other donor priorities” mentioned above, used government funds to campaign against free trade, on one occasion stating: “There is very little evidence to support claims that free trade lifts people out of poverty.”

This assertion simply ignores all the millions of people around the world who have been allowed to escape poverty through freer trade after decades of economic oppression. Anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof said this year that “probably the great unsung triumph so far of the 21st century was the lifting of 400 million Chinese people out of extreme poverty—through trade”. Ideological groups like ActionAid can only make things worse for the world’s poorest people, who already face high barriers to trade.

Some Western groups funded with “foreign aid” money lobby and pressurise developing-countries to change their own policies. The UK charity Voluntary Service Overseas took offence at package holidays in Gambia and convinced the Gambian government to ban them. Realising that the ban was doing more harm than good, the country dropped the policy just a year later.

Of the “foreign aid” that never even leaves the UK, the government has given millions to British trades unions who in turn fund the ruling Labour Party. This cosy system would be condemned by Westerners in a poor country yet is openly taking place in the supposed birthplace of modern democracy.

The Trades Union Congress (a group of 60 unions) describes on its website how, in the name of “development,” UK taxpayers have paid for its three-year DfID “Strategic Framework Partnership Arrangement (SFPA)” whose “key achievements” included “the TUC’s fifth International Women’s Day celebration.” How a party with Caribbean food and music helps women in poor countries, or indeed anyone other than the guests, remains unclear.

At the very least, the next government should ensure that foreign aid is just that–help to the poorest people abroad. Better would be to reconsider the outdated and disproven ideas of development aid.

But even this government has started to question its approach, accusing Oxfam of the “prioritising of advocacy over humanitarian delivery” with its £27.8 million (US$31 million) grant.

Such mismanagement and the recession will cut into the amounts of aid actually transferred from rich to developing countries. But this might not be bad news: experience and economic data have shown how foreign aid props up bad governments and bad policies. It should be no surprise that aid fuels corruption and waste when it is poisoned at the source.

==
Boin is a Director and Harris a Research Fellow at International Policy Network. They recently wrote Fake Aid: how foreign aid is being used to support the self-serving political activities of NGOs.

Civil Society finally wakes up

The plight of student nurses
On Thursday night last I took up this issue with the Irish Ambassador, Liam MacGabhann;
In July last, we employed a bright 19 year old to keep the stores at our factory site in Luinga. She had been persistent in looking for a job, armed with her MSE (equivalent of Leaving Cert). I asked if she could add, she said and subtract too, and I am good at writing things down; I said you’re hired straight away, change the high heels and the suit, she was back and ready within the hour. She was truly amazing and I wanted to give her a contract, but she was called to do nursing. I hated it but conceded to her parents better judgement – and the possibility of a professional qualification.
Her parents had saved 25 of the 35000M kwachas of fees and I personally added the other 10, Charity made her uniforms and off she went to Ecuendeni Hospital for her training, but the next day she arrived home crying and with dreams shattered, the fees were now 355,000 Mkw or about 1800 euros. University fees in Malawi exist but the Government give loans which have no facility for being repaid. You can get any degree in Malawi free; seems like that to me and this has been confirmed to me.
In the past few years many agencies, including the Norwegian Government, have come together to improve the pay and conditions of nurses and medical staff (mistakenly I think) and millions have been spent on expanding facilities for nurse training.
Last year there was more of my tax money spent on putting up huge billboard posters saying Nurses are Angels and all kinds of nice things about the profession but now in one fell swoop, the Ministry have axed the support for training, and I am left to support an amazing young woman personally!
Maybe this training is bought and paid for already or maybe its believed that donors will come rushing, as I have.
Br Aidan concluded that as most of the nurse training places are left vacant now and most certainly will be when the next tranche of fees are required, Nursing numbers may never recover from this
The much (Irish Taxpayer) funded Civil Society have taken until now to make any utterance on the issue but I suppose they have other important things to do. (You may notice that I am a tad annoyed). Of course few people know about this.

From the Nyasa Times Nov 9
Malawi’s civil society organisations on Monday petitioned government over its decision to stop paying nurses and midwifery students school fees in the form of subsidies to train them at Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) colleges.
The government, through Ministry of Health, announced early this year that it had ceased to subsidise US$2,392 needed by each student studying at the privately-owned CHAM colleges due to budgetary constraints, whereby students were paying US$224 each to study nursing courses. (My news is that students found out this when they arrived at the Hospitals)National Organisation for Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (NONM) Executive Director Dorothy Ng’oma (pictured) said in Lilongwe that government should reverse the decision on the payment of the college fees to avoid a continued shortage of health personnel in the country’s hospitals. (Do you notice the forceful language here!)

Malawi only has 4,450 nurses/midwives practising in the public sector, with a prevailing 76 percent vacancy rate.

“The recent development on the introduction of full tuition fees for nurses/midwives training poses a great threat towards addressing the inadequate human resources in the health sector in the country,” she said.–APA

Malawi begs Mozambique to lend it fuel after being depleted of forex

By Nyasa Times
Since August or so, the Malawi Government closed down all its forex exchanges in an effort to prevent indepent traders accessing hard currencies. It looked to me like an effort to prop up the value of the Malawi Kwacha as all neighbouring currencies were falling in line with the US Dollar. It also looked like tobacco sellers were failing to repatriate their dollars (tobacco priced in dollars). Were they waiting for a better rate?
Just before I left on Tuesday the TNM mobile phone people announced that the lack of forex was affecting expansion and for some time there was talk of fuel shortages. Earlier we were seriously delayed for metal roofing as a result of forex shortage. So the following news does not surprise me.
The Malawi Government has been pressing the Mozambique Government in a bid to borrow fuel as Malawi has run out of foreign exchange, it has been learnt.
Malawi is facing a serious fuel shortage following the scarcity of foreign exchange. Fernando Couto, Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Development Corridor (CDN), which runs the Nacala port and rail system, says that Malawi asked Mozambique to borrow fuel.
“The Malawians have even asked us to lend them fuel”, Couto revealed, denying claims by Malawi authorities that the current shortage of fuel is due to congestion at the Mozambican ports of Nacala and Beira.
Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) governor Perks Ligoya told a joint news conference with IMF in Lilongwe on Wednesday that, through government, there would be some adjustments in the local currency against other currencies to alleviate the forex problem.
“The movement of the exchange rate will be fixed with the flexibility within the band which would be put in place by the central bank like between MK135 to MK147 per US Dollar,” he said.
He therefore warned unscrupulous dealers of forex that they would be brought to book to face the law which attracts over three years in imprisonment with hard labour if found illegally dealing in forex.

Reasons for Malawi’s forex crunch – Bingu to blame
By Nyasa Times
Published: November 11, 2009
The problems that Malawi is facing ranging from fuel shortages, the forex crunch, power blackouts and water scarcity are attributable to the administration of Bingu wa Mutharika for his extravagant use of forex.
Nyasa Times has learned that Malawi’s forex problems have come about because the Government of Malawi, in June 2007 through the Reserve Bank of Malawi, lent the Zimbabwe Government about USD100 million.
The money was meant for the Zimbabwe Government to buy maize in Malawi, according to information on page 62 of the account for Reserve Bank of Malawi for the year ending 31 December, 2008.
The loan, guaranteed by the Malawi government on the basis of a personal understanding between President Mutharika and his close political pal President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, is supposed to be repaid by the 31st. of December, 2009. It is yet to be seen whether the money will indeed be repaid.
In addition, media reports indicate that the Mutharika Government has bought a presidential jet for about US$15.9million, according to The Sunday Times, a newspaper owned and run by Blantyre Newspapers Limited of Finance Minister Ken Kandodo.
However, the Mutharika Government has not been fully forthcoming on the transaction involving the jet, bought from Aero Toy Store in the United States of America. Specifically, the government is being very secretive regarding the vote used to purchase the plane.
The Mutharika government also depleted forex following the blowing of £3million on a fleet of 22 Mercedes Benz cars from Britain for the cabinet. According to The Sun newspaper of Britain, London-based Crown Agents Bank Ltd. is said to have brokered the deal.
The Sun quotes a Malawian political source as saying: “If you guys in Britain think you’ve got it bad with your MPs’ noses in the trough, check out our lot. Thousands are starving but our government just wants to drive around in style.”
Moreover, Mutharika has been the subject of criticism on extravagant expenditure, drawing the ire of the opposition when his government purchases a fleet of top-of-the-range Hummer vehicles for his motorcade. In the same splurge, he also purchased buses to run his campaign, using one of them during the campaign in which bus he was the only passenger.
Said opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo, “Malawi cannot afford to buy such expensive and luxurious Hummers, coaches and buses and roll them on a presidential convoy without passengers.”
Fuel especially diesel and paraffin have been in short supply on the Malawi market for the past few weeks, a development that reached crisis levels last week.
Private owned Capital Radio reported that people in some parts of the southern region, as far away as Balaka, Zomba and Ntcheu districts have been trekking down to Blantyre to purchase diesel in bulk.
Motorists are reportedly continuing to abandon their cars at filling stations in hopes that they should remain in their position in line to purchase fuel once it is delivered at the stations.
To mislead the public, the Mutharika government has been blaming the shortage of fuel on congestion at Nacala and Beira ports in Mozambique, claims which have been rebutted by the Mozambique authorities as blatant lies.
The Mutharika Government has also been falsely blaming forex bureaux for the shortage of forex in Malawi, and traders for externalizing foreign exchange. However, all this has been simply in an attempt to divert attention from the real cause of the forex shortage: the government’s own extravagance, and its refusal to own up to this wastefulness.