Not long ago, all Malawians were guaranteed quality healthcare when they go to public hospitals, sadly, many today are dying of curable disease because Malawi healthcare has system has deteriorated.
It has become so endemic, year in year out in Malawi that a certain population faces a risk of missing their food entitlement during lean months. While poor rains could be blamed for this, the fact of the matter is that many Malawians are not resilient enough because poor or heavy rains wash away their ailing economic muscle leaving them helpless.
While women provide almost 70 percent of the agriculture labour force and constitute a majority of the population, many of them do not own land let alone be in control of other factors of agriculture production. They do not have control of the very produce they labour for in the sun and rain because of their sex.
According to the report, A Dangerous Divide: the state of inequality in Malawi, launched by Oxfam recently, the gap between the poor and the rich is growing at an alarming rate and the worst is yet to happen if nothing is done to reverse the situation. The report reveals that eight million or almost 50 percent of Malawians live below the poverty line. By 2020, the study projects that 1.5 million Malawians will fall into the poverty trap if we continue on the current trend.
The study further reveals some shocking statistics that the gap between the richest 10 percent of Malawians and the poorest 40 percent increased by almost a third between 2004 and 2011. In the same period, Malawi’s Gini coefficient has also made a leap up from 0.39 on a par with Cameroon to 0.45 on a par with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This is quite disheartening because this means that Malawi is not just a poorest country by some measures, but unequal society as well which is very unlikely to bail its citizens out of poverty trap. Why? Research has revealed that inequality undermines the fight against poverty because of the following reasons:
Inequality hinders economic growth
Stifles social stability
Corrupt politics and power–we are all witnesses of how wealth is used as a symbol of power to corrupt democratic processes, perpetuating the alienation of poor people from politics, jobs and access to essential services.
Does not empower democratic processes
Undermines governance institutions.
It fuels crime and even violent conflicts
Surely, we can all deduce from the above facts that inequality is not inevitable, and truthfully speaking, Malawi has gotten this far because our political and economic choices have not prioritised ‘’attaining equality’’. The Vision 2020 has an aspiration to address inequality, but sadly, all national development strategies put in place to achieve the Vision, do not deliberately address inequality.
While the corrosive consequences of inequality affect us all, the impact is worst for the poorest and most vulnerable people. Extreme inequality also compounds the impact of gender inequality, leaving the most vulnerable women trapped in poverty.
While I understand that inequality is a global problem, Malawi government can and must take steps to tackle inequality. Inequality is not inevitable. Experts believe that it is the result of deliberate political and economic choices. And as Naomi Ngwira, a renowned economist and policy analyst puts it, perhaps, as a country we need to go back where we went wrong and fix the problem because it is unacceptable in this era that we still have half the country’s population not knowing what they will eat the following day.
Malawi endorsed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and we therefore urge government to prioritise SDG Goal 10 on reducing inequality within and among countries by 2030 within its next national development strategy. n