Public Health in Malawi

In accordance to Malawi’s Ministry of Health, the current overall policy goal focuses on, “the development of a sound delivery system capable of promoting health, preventing, reducing and curing diseases, protecting life and fostering general well being and increased productivity.”

These lofty goals are trademark of many of Southern Africa’s Public Health initiatives and clearly draw their roots from World Health Organizations (WHO) standards. However, similar to many nations around the Earth, Malawi struggles to attain these health goals. This can be derived from the multiple conflicting priorities surrounding the financing, communication, and research sectors responsible for supplementing Public Health in Malawi. Malawi’s Unicameral National Assembly and the Public Affairs Committee both champion Public Health causes, however focus remains fixed on improving economy and human rights above preventative medicine. Therefore, it is important to track Malawi’s Ministry of Health in conjunction to the understanding that most improvements in Public health are not stemming from the Policy level.

Instead, improvements come from grassroots efforts and the funding and supervision from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Most prolific amongst these are the WHO and USAID. While Malawi offers Public Health Services such as hospitals  most areas are geographically isolated from theses National Hospitals. Instead they rely on the wisdom and medicine brought in by Community Health Workers. In a similar fashion, Private Health Care and Insurance is available, and in fact growing at an exponential rate. However, these companies can only insure a limited range of medical treatments, and most Malawi citizens living in rural areas have issue meeting with hospitals that accept their insurance provider.

This leads to a nation that has high potential to control communicable diseases, but is hindered by infrastructure failures.  For more information, see the “Infrastructural Insecurities” page.

Top 10 Causes of Death in Malawi

  1. HIV/AIDS 25 %
  2. Lower respiratory infections 12 %
  3. Diarrheal diseases 8 %
  4. Malaria 8 %
  5. Cerebrovascular disease 4 %
  6. Ischemic Heart Disease 4%
  7. Conditions arising during perinatal period 3%
  8. Tuberculosis 3%
  9. Road traffic accidents 2%
  10. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 1%

(Source: Bowie, C. “Burden of Disease Estimates for 2011 and the potential effects of the Essential Health Package on Malawi’s health burden.” University of Malawi, 2011.)


The first case of AIDS in Malawi was diagnosed in 1985. Since then the prevalence rose to its highest in 1999 at 16.4% for adults age 15-49 years. Prevalence has decreased with the prevalence for 2010 at about 10.6% among adults. Comparing women and men, the prevalence of HIV is higher for women compared to men with a prevalence of 12.9% for women and 8.1% for men.  The primary mode of transmission is unprotected heterosexual sex. In fact 80% of new infections occur among partners of stable relationships. Mother to child HIV transmission is the second mode of transmission with an estimated 470, 000 women age 15+ living with HIV.

Substantial process has been made in the availability of Antiretroviral therapy. As of 2011, 67% of all adults and children in need of ART are receiving them. This progress has been made mainly from the scaling up focus of ARTs in Malawi launched in 2004 through support of the Global Fund.

(Source: “2012 Global AIDS Response Progress Report: Malawi Country Report for 2010 and 2011” USAIDS)

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