Malawi: ADRA assistance reaches HIV/AIDS-affected communities

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In Malawi, where HIV/AIDS prevalence ranks eighth in the world, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is assisting 4,200 low-income families through a three-year community-based health and food security project in the southern districts of Mwanza and Mulanje.

Targeting communities in rural areas, ADRA is helping HIV/AIDS-affected families access high quality and nutritious foods through initiatives that teach beneficiaries better ways to produce food using more effective farming methods. As part of this project, beneficiaries are also learning to grow drought resistant crops, and protect stored food from pests, spoilage, and other hazards. Additionally, ADRA is promoting the planting of community gardens as a tool to increase food accessibility among villagers.

"One of the most important parts of achieving long-term success in the project is to strengthen the capacities of the communities, as well as the capacities of individual people," said Michael Usi, director for programs at ADRA Malawi.

Included in the nutrition component of this project, participants attend classes to learn to improve the overall health of their families through appropriate food selection, nutritional diversification, and meal preparation. This approach has had a lasting effect on beneficiaries, as they are better able to retain crucial food nutrients, ultimately improving their health and immunity to disease.

"This section of the project has been very beneficial," said Usi. "Before, the elders of the community would say, 'all that matters is that your stomach is full.'"

As part of this three-year project, supported by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and ADRA Denmark, ADRA is also training community volunteer health workers to provide health, child-care, and nutrition counseling, and teach improved personal hygiene and sanitation. In addition, participants learn about sanitation and essential life skills to promote disease prevention.

In Nseula Village, located in Neno District, one of the most remote areas of Malawi, ADRA built a gravity-fed water supply system that is providing drinking water to approximately 1,085 people for the first time. This addition has made a significant difference in this village. ADRA is also constructing 130 wells, boreholes, and protected springs to improve water access in other communities.

"The value of access to safe water is immeasurable," said Usi. "Instead of spending time walking to get water, a chore which, for some, takes up to an hour, women are able to spend more time taking care of their children. In addition, if the water that you are bringing home is not clean, there is a much higher risk of spreading diseases. That is why ADRA makes it a priority to provide clean water in the communities in which we work."

ADRA is also providing livelihood training to child-headed households, enabling them to make a living and provide for their families. This initiative has been particularly important in Malawi where the AIDS pandemic has left thousands of orphans, resulting in an increasing number of children having to become the primary breadwinners. To date, more than 120 children and young adults between the ages of 12 to 24 have received vocational and life skills training, such as tailoring, tinsmithing, baking, brick laying, welding and carpentry. ADRA has also partnered with Malawi's Department of Social Welfare to encourage younger children to return to school, a plan that will allow them to only work for part of the day, and still support their families.

To ensure project sustainability, ADRA is increasing the capacity of the targeted communities through initiatives that establish village support groups, which can manage the resources once the project ends. ADRA is also training community leaders on issues such as organization, management, leadership, and planning, and educating communities on the importance of the rights of women, children, and other vulnerable groups.

"Beneficiaries have told us that they appreciate the impact of the project, due to the knowledge and skills that they have acquired," said Usi. "The project has definitely been a success. No doubt about it."

The three-year project is scheduled to close at the end of October. However, a second phase will begin in February of 2009.

ADRA has been active in Malawi since 1982, working primarily in the areas of disaster relief, water and sanitation, HIV and AIDS, family planning, agriculture, primary health, basic education, and empowerment of vulnerable groups, such as women and children.

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.

Additional information about ADRA can be found at

Author: Nadia McGill

Media Contact:John Torres
Senior Public Relations Manager
ADRA International
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904
Phone: 301.680.6357