About one fifth of Malawi's adults have HIV/AIDS. A staggering 2.5 million of the country's 12.5 million people are infected.
AIDS is the single biggest factor that keeps Malawi one of the poorest countries in the world. It robs its small economy of its most productive workers. It keeps the country from having as many teachers as it needs. On average, more than one teacher dies from AIDS every single day. Funerals and coffin-makers are everywhere.
Malawi is a developing country. Poverty, malnutrition, poor infrastructure, poor education, and an almost crippling dependence on aid - all are evident. The solutions to these problems continue to elude the best minds (though some might argue that the best minds don't actually want these problems solved!). Recent observations on education, in particular, offer no solutions but they do reveal to me the extent of the problem.
Study show, there seems to be a real inability to problem-solve; whether it's an elementary maths question, or the logistics of a road-accident, or just using Help in a software package. It's a symptom of an education based on rote-learning rather than on understanding and thinking for yourself. Admittedly there is little motivation to self-develop, to learn from others, to do anything that doesn't actually involve being paid "extra". This is a symptom of a the previous president punishing severely any that showed initiative. But whatever the cause, it is the educated - the elite - who this country must start to rely on, and not the aid agencies or ex-patriots or even volunteers. That is, if the country is ever to be anything other than a developing country.
This is not just a country with problems, there are lots of lifestyle attitudes. The more you see and hear of the disorganisation that exists in Malawi (and the corruption and greed of its politicians) the more you are forced to try and think of solutions, and then you are forced to realise that - for now - things are just not going to get better. People are going to continue to die, and people are going to turn increasingly more towards crime.
I still think that the solution to Malawi's problems - the trick,
the balancing act - is to provide aid without producing a
dependency on that aid. Thankfully, after over 30 years
dispensing aid, development agencies are beginning to
address this issue.
And obviously, you cannot ignore the role of ordinary Malawians
in making their country more prosperous and developed.