It is mid-morning at Mdeka health center. The hospital yard is full of people. They are women with babies on their backs men helping patients off bicycle taxis and others busking in the morning sun waiting for their turn to be seen by the clinicians.
The sound of a bell rings out to announce that the school day has just finished at Kathebwe Primary School. It’s a hot, sunny day. Children run outside and start to disperse. Some go home to nearby villages, while others start kicking a ball around on the school field. A third group joins their mothers and younger siblings, who are sitting with a hundred or more flood victims in the shade of a large tree. Since the heavy rains and floods of early March, this school has doubled as an evacuation centre.
Beatrice Harold and her newborn daughter have been living in a classroom at their local primary school ever since flood waters swept through southern Malawi three weeks ago
On a drizzling morning in Phalombe district, Malawi, mothers and their children gather at a village clinic for growth monitoring appointments for the children. The clinic is located on a mountain and is surrounded by grassy plains and a forest. Tawina Mawindo is here with her 4-year-old son, Boniface Masiye.
Malawi’s border with neighbouring Mozambique has always been fluid. People move freely across the vast land border for trade and marriage. The language spoken in the southern border villages is often a fusion of Sena (spoken by the Sena tribe of southern Malawi) and Portuguese from Mozambique. It is not uncommon to find Malawians in these areas speaking fluent Portuguese and using a Mozambique network on their mobile phones.
The timing could hardly have been worse. Just a few weeks before Malawi’s staple maize crop was due to be harvested, heavy rains swept through the southern part of the country, taking with them the yet-to-be-collected grain, thousands of houses and cutting off access to some areas; dozens were killed.
During her time at the orphanage, Maria Vasco would cry for no apparent reason. The toddler was so miserable, some even considered her troublesome.“When visitors came she would cry all day because people would play with the younger children and not bother with Maria,” says Rex Mbewe, the orphanage matron.
Kitty Yobe used to struggle to make ends meet. The mother of six grew maize and pigeon peas on her small plot of land in Balaka, in Malawi’s south. But unpredictable rains meant she could never grow enough to last out the year and her family would sometimes go for days without food.
Nkhope Primary School is located in the lakeshore district of Mangochi, which is known for its chambo fish and beautiful beaches. Despite the picturesque setting, child advocates say it is important the school is a safe space for children.
Having a secondary school bursary is something that most girls in Malawi dream of. In a country where poverty rates are high, many girls fail to finish secondary school. Ellen Rajab, who studies at Mpondasi Community Day Secondary School, is one of the lucky ones. She is a confident, outgoing girl. As she sits on the white sandy beach by the side of Lake Malawi on a sunny afternoon, she enthusiastically explains how far she has come.