February 4, 2005
Everywhere you drive in Malawi, you see signs of NGOs. An NGO is a Non-Government Organization (NGO). There are scores of them here. All you have to do is look at the cars, which have logos like UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Education Fund), CRS (Catholic Relief Services), WAG (Wildlife Action Group), EPA (Elderly People’s Association), MRCS (Malawi Red Cross Society), PSI (Population Services International), SSAFE (Sub-Saharan African Family Enrichment), WRI (World Relief International), MSF (Doctors without Borders), PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance), PUSHH (People United to Save Humanity from HIV/AIDS), BCM (Baptist Convention in Malawi), EU (European Union), CPAR (Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief), etc. You see how broad the range of these agencies is.
If you look at the buildings it is even more evident – CURE Hospital is a modern new medical facility that provides free orthopedic care to the needy people of Malawi. Recently a group of American physicians came in and did two weeks of special back surgeries on patients with severe problems. The results were life changing.
As you drive you see signs that read: World Vision Food Distribution Warehouse, Blantyre Synod CCAP Orphan Care, Family Health Care Center, Salvation Army Educational Training Center, St. David’s Center for Rural Development, and Women’s World Banking, just to name a few.
On a recent trip to Lilongwe we saw that the UNWFP (United Nations World Food Program) had set up tents in rural areas at strategic sites to distribute maize seed and fertilizer to farmers, so that they could grow crops successfully.
Sometimes I buy cards and paper at PAMET (Paper Making Educational Trust) They gave me a tour of their facility. They use recycled paper from Malawian businesses to make beautiful, textured paper that has elephant dung, banana peel fibers or baobab tree bark in it. They go out into communities or educational centers and teach people how to make the paper in rural areas. This is called “capacity building” or self development.
Many of the organizations are here to provide immediate relief to the massive crises (such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic and hunger) that this country faces, others are here to educate, still others are here to implement long term solutions to problems.
I have come to the conclusion that all these things are necessary to help Malawians tackle the obstacles they face. NGOs could throw billions of dollars at the problems, but that alone would not do it. There has to be a combination of efforts, done in partnership with the government, churches, schools and people of Malawi if progress is going to be made. Careful planning and prudent use of resources is needed as well.
There is hope for Malawi, but unfortunately, because of the population explosion, massive deaths of young adults, serious flaws in the infrastructure and former government corruption, things will probably get worse here before they get better. Still, there is no excuse for us not to help, educate and cooperate to capacity build and improve life for the people of Malawi.
Besides, according to a paper that I just read by a CCAP pastor, it is Biblically mandated in John 6:1-15, when Jesus teaches us to trust him, follow his directions, give generously, share resources as well as use them wisely, to persevere, think creatively, plan well, and to care for physical as well as spiritual needs. Pretty good advice!