2023 Project Story: Malawi Lilongwe

In the past decade, Malawi has made significant economic and structural reforms and has sustained economic growth, yet it remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Approximately 51.5 percent of Malawi’s population lives below the poverty line with 20.1 percent living in extreme poverty. Malawi’s $389 per person GDP (third-lowest in the world), and an early lockdown due to COVID-19 led to protests by Malawian business people. Economic sacrifices add pressure to a nation that is already battling malnutrition and infectious diseases. Although the country faces various struggles, Malawi has opened its borders, allowing tens of thousands of refugees to enter and seek solace there. 

In 2019, the UNHCR reported a total of 25.9 million refugees worldwide, with 80 percent of refugees living in countries neighboring their country of origin. Malawi has multiple neighboring countries experiencing civil unrest, violence, and war, and has thus become a safe haven for refugees of various nationalities.

Currently Malawi is home to over 47,000 refugees and asylum-seekers. Most refugees are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi—all areas experiencing long-term conflict, some for almost a decade. Despite their inclusive intent, the Malawian government lacks the funds and space to attend to so many refugees. As a result, refugees have little access to social services, are not allowed to work, and are restricted from moving freely throughout the camp. Currently there are over 38,000 refugees in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp, and it is becoming more crowded due to the continued influx of refugees. Dzaleka refugees receive $5 per month which is not sustainable, but job opportunities are few and there are many policies in place by the government that govern a refugee’s right to work.

This summer, HumanitarianXP Refuge participants will be constructing a workshop within the camp that will serve to teach refugees work skills such as carpentry. These work skills will teach refugees how to make money for themselves, helping to alleviate the dependency of the refugees on others.

These building projects and daily services will play a significant part in the effort to integrate millions of refugees into a new country and culture, helping them feel hope, acceptance and safety in their new home. 

Sources: UNHCR