Deputy director for fisheries, Dr. Steven Donda, says HIV and Aids in the fishing community has negatively affected the national economy. He said the fisheries sector contributes significantly to the economy of Malawi.
Donda made the remarks at a review workshop of the Fisheries HIV and Aids strategy in Zomba attended by officials from the fisheries department and district Aids coordinators from fishing districts of Salima, Mangochi, Nkhotakota and Zomba.
“Fisheries sector contributes four percent to the total gross domestic product (GDP) of the nation. It also provides employment to over 300 000 people and about 10 percent of the nation’s population derives their livelihood from fishery-related activities,” Donda said, adding that fish provides over 70 percent of the nation’s animal protein.
However, he bemoaned low turnover at the workplace, saying the Department of Fisheries continues to experience an increase in absenteeism of staff who are either ill or have to attend to illness and funerals of fellow staff or relatives due to HIV and Aids.
World Fish Centre project manager, Joseph Nagoli, said his organisation would continue working on projects to do with fishing in relation to HIV and Aids.
“I would like to ask my colleagues in the fisheries department to also consider doing research on HIV and Aids and the fishing community. This will help us find solutions to our challenges,” Nagoli said.
He revealed that the World Fish Centre is trying to authenticate if fish, especially usipa, is nutritious enough to boost the immunity of people living with HIV.
“We are trying to conduct research to see if fish is good for people living with HIV. There is a preliminary indication that those that are feeding on fish are healthier than their counterparts,” Nagoli said.
In many African countries Malawi inclusive, fishers are among the populations at high risk of HIV and Aids with prevalence rates of four to five times higher than in the general population, according to the HIV and Aids in Fisheries Strategy of 2007 to 2011.