Icelandic foreign affairs minister GUNNAR BRAGI SVEINSSON was in the country recently to inspect projects being implemented with funding from his government. Our reporter BONIFACE PHIRI had a chat with him.
What was the purpose of your visit to Malawi?
The purpose of my visit to Malawi was to see what the Icelandic Government through Icelandic International Development Agency (Iceida) is doing when it comes to implementation of projects in several districts. As you know, we are supporting some projects in the health and education sectors. I also wanted to see and familiarise myself with what is going on, how things are progressing and whether the local government system we are working with is effective or needs some improvements.
So, what has been your impression?
Generally, I have seen that the projects are going on quite well, suffice to say that we need to make a few changes here and there and the visit has been very informative.
Most of the programmes that target the poor are donor funded with others reaching 85 percent. Do you think this is sustainable?
Of course, you can debate what is sustainable and what is not, but this is a reality today and it is what we are living with. It is a fact that you need donations to fund projects like the ones being implemented by some of our local partners like the Malawi Red Cross Society. A lot of governments in the world cannot afford to take care of everything and, unfortunately, Malawi is one of them. You need support and we provide such support by enhancing capacities in local government projects being implemented in partnership with local organisations. So, donations are what you will rely on for some time and you cannot deny that.
What is your overall assessment of the impact of Icelandic aid, especially on the lives vulnerable communities?
I have seen that there is a huge impact, especially in terms of providing water supply to rural people. We are also funding construction of health clinics, maternity wings and school blocks. I am convinced that things will change for the better for Malawian citizens. I am told that in the areas where we support, there have been sufficient water supply for more than two years and we hope to continue improving the lives of the people in the areas we work in. However, there are some projects that require some improvements and adjustments here and there.
What is your view on gender mainstreaming in these activities?
This is a cross-cutting issue when it comes to development aid and we emphasise on that so much. What I have learnt here is that everyone is focusing on empowering women because they play important roles in our communities. I have been discussing with authorities on how to prevent early marriages and pregnancies because, as we know, that can ruin the future of girls. I am very positive that people here will continue to focus on gender balance. Most of our work targets women because they form the majority of the population and it is them who suffer most in communities. Remember, it is women who fetch water from shallow wells and we believe that if they spend less time in getting water they can spend the rest of the hours doing some productive work like running businesses.