Malawi

Project: Mangochi Basic Services Programme: Programme Support by ICEIDA to the Mangochi District Council for the Improvement of Basic Services in Mangochi District 2012-2016.

Country Strategy Paper for Malawi 2012-2016: Country Strategy Paper 2012-2016

"Iceland will contribute to development in Malawi to improve the living conditions of the poor population. This will result in a more resilient population in adversity and a more resourceful one for self sufficiency." 

ICEIDA has a well-established relationship in development co-operation with Malawi dating back to 1989. 

From ICEIDA´s Annual Report 2014:

In 2014, elections were conducted in Malawi with Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections held at the same time. This undeniably dominated the headlines of 2014, so the many problems faced by the Malawian population were temporarily forgotten. GDP growth, estimated at 5.7%, was considered to be acceptable, however, its positive impact was undermined by a number of issues. Firstly, the high inflation rate which Malawi has been struggling with since 2012. The average inflation for 2014 stood at approximately 24% which had particularly detrimental effects on the country's poor people. Secondly, donor countries' suspension of general budget support to the Malawian Government in the wake of a financial scandal in the second half of 2013 has also exacerbated the situation. As a result of this action the Government had to significantly reduce public expenditure, but nevertheless the fiscal deficit remained substantial. Malawi's public debt rose sharply, especially its outstanding debts. By the end of 2014, it was estimated that arrears amounted to 8% of annual GDP although that might still change. As a Heavily Indebted Poor Country, Malawi received debt relief in 2006. Regrettably the country's debt is fast approaching the same levels as before the debt cancellation. This has impacted negatively on the delivery of basic services, including education and health, as the Government struggles to meet the cost for the daily operation of these services. New construction and maintenance obviously had to be put on hold. Things began to improve towards the end of the year, with the Government of Malawi making advances meeting the conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) resuming aid. Many donor countries consider Malawi's collaboration with the IMF as a prerequisite for starting providing general budgetary support again. Also, the Malawi Kwacha seemed to have stabilised at the end of 2014 after nearly continuous depreciation since 2012. The stabilisation of the currency is necessary to curb inflation. The year 2015 started therefore with guarded optimism.

Development cooperation

ICEIDA focuses its efforts on one district in Malawi: Mangochi. Current support, which started in July 2012 and will come to an end in mid-2016, aims to strengthen the delivery of basic services in the district through providing the Mangochi District Council with support in three areas: public health, water and sanitation, and education. 2014 was the first full year where activities were implemented in all three sectors of intervention with finalised programme documents and a monitoring and evaluation plan. Overall, performance was satisfactory, both in terms of implementing the projects specified in the programme documents as well as monitoring their progress. All activities and projects which are defined in the programme documents are based on a “district-wide approach” whereby Mangochi District Council is responsible for the planning, tendering, and financial administration. The entire project implementation process follows Malawian law, regulations and operational procedures on public procurement. According to the experience of the staff at the ICEIDA Country Office in Malawi, this system works well - as long as it is followed step by step. In mid-2014, a mid-term evaluation of ICEIDA's Programme Support to Mangochi district was conducted to assess the progress made during the first half of the implementation period. The findings were very positive although they obviously recommended a number of areas for improvement. Actions to address the recommendations started at the end of the year.  

Sectors of involvement

The Public Health Programme is the most extensive of the three programmes of ICEIDA's Programme Support. Its objective is to improve the quality of life of the population in the district through enhanced health services, with special focus on activities aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality. This will be achieved primarily by increasing the availability and access to maternal and child health services. 

The single biggest component of the Public Health Programme is the construction of a new maternity ward at the Mangochi District Hospital in Mangochi Boma. Contracts were signed with contractors at the end of 2013 following a tendering process. Considerable delays occurred during the tendering and subsequently the works started later than had been scheduled. Some delays also occurred during the implementation phase. At the end of 2014, construction works had progressed well and the finishing of the inside of the building was underway. Preparations for an international tender for the procurement of medical equipment had almost been finalised. It is expected that the maternity ward will be operational by the second half of 2015. 

At the same time the tendering for the large-scale project of the maternity ward in Mangochi Boma was launched, a tender was also opened for the construction of two smaller maternity wards in rural areas, each attached to health centres expected to provide services to tens of thousands of people. Constructions had for the most part been completed by the end of the year. What remained to be finished was some work inside the buildings and the procurement of medical equipment which was tendered together with the tendering for the maternity ward at Mangochi District Hospital. 

By the end of the year, contracts had been signed for the construction of the two smaller rural maternity wards which are expected to be ready for use in 2015. The tender process for one of the wards was expedited to ensure that the work will be fully completed before the end of the implementation period as well as to maximise efficiency as it is more practical to carry out more than one such project at the same time. These are the final maternity wards planned under the Programme which comes to an end in mid-2016.  

The Public Health Programme plans to provide safe water supply in 13 health centres. Nine have been installed. In 2014, an agreement was made to construct eight boreholes (six new ones and two rehabilitated) in addition to the five boreholes that had been completed. However, only four (two new and two rehabilitated) were done as the contractor who had been hired to drill for the new boreholes did not manage to finish the work before the start of the rainy season. The remaining four boreholes will be re-tendered in 2015. Furthermore, it is expected that electricity will be installed in 19 health centres over the programme period; 12 through solar power and seven through the national electricity grid, depending on the distance from the respective health centre to the public distribution system. Solar power has been installed in four health centres and contracts have been signed for an additional seven. Moreover, three health centres have been connected to the national electricity grid and contracts have been signed for the four remaining ones. 

Funding is also allocated to the renovation of health centres and five centres have undergone comprehensive renovations thus far.

Part of the Programme focuses on improving referral services so that patients can be transported nearer to hospitals, when needed. Therefore, five ambulances have been purchased, some located in rural areas. The purchase of the fifth ambulance was not scheduled until the second half of 2015, but the purchase was expedited as, among other reasons, it was considered to be more economical to launch a tender for two vehicles at the same time.  

According to the original work plan, waiting homes, health posts and staff houses should have been built in 2014, but were not. However, by the end of the year the tendering process had been concluded and contracts signed with contractors for the construction of three waiting homes, four health posts and six staff houses attached to health centres. The delays in the implementation of these projects can partly be explained by speeding up the implementation of other projects. 

Community-based Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) play a pivotal role in the delivery of health services in rural, remote areas where poverty is pervasive. Their work consists of collating the registration and data regarding births, deaths and the general medical condition of the population in their respective target areas. HSAs have received training in immunisation and provision of basic care for illnesses and accidents. In many cases, they have proven to be able to provide treatment to patients, without having to refer them elsewhere. The training and capacity of the HSAs to do their jobs is therefore extremely important. The Public Health Programme acknowledges this and the purchase of bicycles for all the HSAs in Mangochi district, 550 in total, in addition to protective clothing, etc. was carried out in the early stages of the Programme. In addition, standardised registers to record people's health information were bought. Training on how to use these and manage the information is crucial to ensure that health information in the district is correct and accurate. In 2014, a training was conducted on information registration and the use of the registers. It is equally important that the information collected and managed by the HSAs is communicated to the District Health Office. Therefore, following a tendering process, computers and other communication equipment was purchased.  

The Education Programme is the second programme of ICEIDA's Programme Support to Mangochi district. Its implementation did not fully commence until in summer 2013, a year later than had been planned, as the formal programme document had not been finalised. Various activities had though been initiated. The Programme consists mainly of strengthening twelve of the approximately 260 primary schools in the district with the aim of turning them into “centres of excellence”. It was decided to target a small number of schools with generous support instead of spreading thinly the limited funds available. In addition, it was decided that even though all the target schools will receive comparable levels of support, the support will be provided in different phases during the life span of the Programme. Classrooms would therefore be constructed in half of the schools during the first part of the implementation period and in the remaining schools during the second part. The same phased approach was applied to other activities. By using this method the plan is to try and establish what types of interventions are the most effective to improve learners' performance and reduce the drop-out rate. To be able to do a more extensive comparison than only within the target schools, 12 other schools of similar size with a similar number of learners were selected as a control group.

The support provided to the 12 target schools involves several activities. Firstly, school infrastructure will be significantly improved through the construction of 52 classrooms, 36 teacher's houses and 48 latrines, provision of school furniture, as well as rehabilitation of dilapidated old school buildings. Also, the Programme expects to provide textbooks and notebooks, conduct teacher training for both teachers in the target schools as well as train 60 new teachers over the Programme period. In addition, school managers will be strengthened and support provided to mother groups and girls' clubs, learners with special needs, etc. 

The construction of classrooms, which is the largest undertaking of the Education Programme, has progressed well and is slightly ahead of schedule. 24 classrooms have been fully completed and the work on additional 20 is well underway, of which some are in the final stages. The classroom construction at some schools was moved forward from what had been originally planned, so overall the implementation of this activity is ahead of schedule. The building of teacher's houses is a different matter. In total, 12 houses are under construction but none has been finished. Work is yet to commence on 24 houses. The construction of latrines has not yet been started at any of the target schools. Despite this there is no reason to think that the construction of the teacher's houses and latrines will not be completed in time as the education authorities purposefully made the decision to move the classroom construction slightly forward to offset the delay in the building of teacher's houses and latrines. Nevertheless, it is expected that these constructions will be well underway by the end of 2015.

In-service training of teachers in the target schools has gone according to plan, with the teachers, Primary Education Advisors, and the management team at the District Education Office (DEO) expressing satisfaction with the training which they believe to be effective. A number of teacher trainees supported by the Programme have completed their education. According to an agreement made between ICEIDA, the DEO and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), these newly trained teachers were supposed to be assigned to the target schools after the completion of their education. However, the new teachers have not yet taken up their positions as the MoEST has not been able to ensure their salary payments. The partners are working together to find a solution to this issue.

The Primary Education Advisors (PEAs), each responsible for approximately 17-18 schools, have also received training at the Malawi Institute of Education (MIE). All the PEAs, 18 in total, were trained regardless of whether the target schools are located in their zones or not. The four PEAs responsible for the target school zones have been provided with additional support. This includes the provision of computer equipment and training in how to use it, as well as the provision of motorbikes to support the PEAS to carry out more effective inspection and supervision of the schools in their respective zones. The results of this are reflected in improved reporting, planning and support to school managers.

Considerable amount of school furniture has been procured for the 12 schools, both for pupils and teachers. However, there is still a long way to go until all pupils are going to be able to sit behind a school desk and it is clear that the Education Programme alone will not be able to meet these needs before mid-2016, which in any case was not its aim.

In 2014, work commenced on establishing a resource centre for learners with special needs in one of the target schools and school staff received training. A large number of learners with hearing impairment have undergone a hearing test to determine whether they would benefit from using hearing aids. Efforts will be made to provide such assistive devices.  

The Programme provides support to orphans and other vulnerable children (OVCs) through covering their school fees and providing them with school uniforms as well as strengthening mother groups in schools which, together with the school management, provide special support to the OVCs. In all the target schools learners have undergone deworming treatments as illnesses caused by parasitic worms are quite common in Malawi, in particular around the lakes. Worm infections impact negatively on the energy and capacity of children and youth to study. 

The progress and results of the Education Programme will be measured through a number of methods, including the introduction of regular standardised tests for learners in two grades; grade 4 and grade 8 which is the final grade of primary school. This will be done in both the target and non-target schools in order to collect important data on educational performance within the target schools during the Programme period as well as being able to compare it to the performance of the control group. Linking data together, including on the progress of individual projects, will provide a reliable dataset from which the impact of these actions can be assessed. 

In addition to the standardised tests, ICEIDA conducts annual surveys in all target and non-target schools. It also conducts surveys in large sample groups of learners and parents as well as teachers and school managers. The data collected indicate that the Programme has already achieved some results.

Furthermore, ICEIDA, in collaboration with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), provides support to a pilot project aiming to introduce home grown school meals. This model has proved successful in Latin America and it is hoped that it will also be a success in Malawi. The project consists of buying produce from farmers in the vicinity of the schools to make nutritious meals for school children and thereby also supporting the local farming community. The school meal project also teaches children the basics of healthy eating and the wider effects of this knowledge appear for example in healthier meals with greater nutritional value served at home.

The Water and Sanitation Programme constitutes the third component of the cooperation between ICEIDA and Mangochi District Council. The Programme focuses on increasing access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation in TA Chimwala. The aim is to construct 150 new boreholes, 100 protected shallow wells and rehabilitate 100 defunct boreholes. Also, the Programme will provide training to 350 Water Point Committees which are responsible for the management and maintenance of the water points. In addition, it is expected that 80% of households in the target area will construct and use improved pit latrines and hand washing facilities. This is in line with Malawi's National Sanitation Policy which stipulates that communities are sensitised on the importance and benefits of improved sanitation and hygiene practices as well as being taught how to construct pit latrines. 

In 2014, 38 new boreholes in total were constructed. Thereby, the total number of new boreholes which have been completed by the Programme has reached 95. According to the annual work plan, 45 boreholes should have been constructed this year. However, that could not be achieved before the start of the rainy season which was mainly due to the contractor not being sufficiently equipped for the task.

When assessing hand-dug wells, 25 were constructed which was according to plan. The total number of hand-dug wells has therefore reached 58. Rehabilitation of defunct boreholes progressed well; rehabilitation of 30 boreholes was planned but 42 were completed. The Programme has therefore completed rehabilitating 85 out of 100 boreholes which is the target.

Since training of Water Point Committees (WPCs) should take place prior to the commencement of any constructions, the total number of WPC which have been established and trained is the same as the number of completed water points. When selecting WPC members, efforts are made to ensure that at least 50% are women.

A number of village chiefs and other key community members in TA Chimwala have received training on the importance of ensuring improved hygiene practices and stopping open defecation in their communities. However, at the end of the year only 15 villages had received a formal verification of an Open Defecation Free (ODF) status.

One of the key components of the Water and Sanitation Programme is that ICEIDA covers the salaries of 14 Water Monitoring Assistants (WMAs) out of the district's 18 WMAs. This arrangement has worked well and been crucial for following up on the implementation of key activities of the project.

ICEIDA supports Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Canada which has provided technical assistance to the Mangochi District Water Office (DWO) for some years. This involves placing a volunteer who has a water engineering degree at the DWO to assist with strategic planning and implementation of the district plans. This support has proven very effective, particularly in terms of strengthening the competence of the DWO staff.

Gender mainstreaming

The Programme Support to the Mangochi District Council places strong emphasis on monitoring and evaluation. One of the most important parts of this is to ask the beneficiaries for their view. For example, the Water and Sanitation Programme has systematically distributed questionnaires to the users of the newly constructed water points. At the end of 2014, 900 people had been surveyed, nearly all of them women since water collection for household consumption is almost exclusively the responsibility of women. One of the most interesting and positive results revealed by this survey was that with improved access to a new or rehabilitated water point the time used to fetch water has been considerably reduced. According to users' replies it can be estimated that time spent in water collection takes overall 30-60 minutes less per day than previously. Such time gain is important as it contributes to increasing the quality of life for women. It is clear that the Programme benefits the targeted women in terms of time and physical labour by saving numerous hours a week. Is the time gained reallocated to rest? Or is it used to spend more time on agricultural activities? Do young girls have increased opportunity to attend school when the burden of collecting water has been lifted? These questions are a compelling topic which call for further study.