PCI has operated in Malawi since 2007, when it began activities by leading an innovative Global Development Alliance initiative to strengthen aquaculture value chains for fish farmers and other related micro, small and medium enterprises in the southern Zomba River basin. Since that time, PCI has expanded its efforts to include important initiatives in HIV/AIDS care and prevention; food security; maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition; women’s empowerment; and disaster prevention, response and mitigation.
COMBATING FOOD INSECURITY
In 2009, in partnership with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), PCI helped initiate the integrated Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA) program in Southern Malawi’s Balaka and Machinga districts. Designed to improve maternal and child health, nutritional status, and food security for over 200,000 vulnerable households, this five-year program is providing farmers with training, tools and inputs required to grow high-yield crops using conservation agriculture techniques and small-scale irrigation systems to improve depleted soils and extend growing seasons. Mother and Father Care Groups promote improved health and nutrition behaviors at the community and household levels. Additionally, PCI is providing training to help communities start and manage savings and loan groups to support women’s empowerment and leadership development, entrepreneurship and other productive investments in the health and welfare of families and communities.
ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSES OF RECURRENT DROUGHT
In early 2013, PCI initiated Project ARC (Addressing Root Causes), a project funded by USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to mitigate the root causes of widespread food insecurity in Malawi caused by drought and late or erratic rainfall. The project targets households in Balaka, where climatic and economic challenges are further compounded by reliance on drought intolerant crops and poor land management practices, resulting in high levels of land degradation, erosion, inefficient irrigation, poor soil fertility, low water table levels, and rampant deforestation. PCI is reinforcing the coping mechanisms of households in areas of high water scarcity through the introduction of drought tolerant crops and improved production technologies, as well as community-level projects to increase natural water retention in soils and recharge aquifers.
FAMILY-CENTERED MATERNAL & CHILD HEALTH
Since 2010, PCI has been addressing the needs of orphans and other vulnerable children in Malawi through organizing and maintaining Care Groups for caregivers of these children through the USAID/CRS-funded IMPACT project. In FY12, these Care Groups empowered 1,339 caregivers by allowing them the opportunity to participate in peer-to-peer education in maternal and child health with a focus on infant and young child feeding; water, sanitation and hygiene; reproductive health; and HIV/AIDS prevention. Caregivers involved in PCI’s Care Groups have shown substantial changes in behavior, resulting in health gains for the target population of orphans and vulnerable children. PCI also assisted with child abuse and exploitation response, promoted primary school retention, and increased financial and academic support to participating children. Because of PCI’s rich experience with Care Groups, the organization was recently awarded a USAID/TOPS-funded grant to study whether the application of the Care Group methodology among fathers increases household and community behavior change in reproductive, maternal and child health practices. This unique, gender-dynamic research initiative is expected to begin in mid-2013.
HIV/AIDS PREVENTION, TREATMENT AND SUPPORT
In Malawi, where the national HIV prevalence rate is 11%, PCI has cumulatively reached over 28,000 people with prevention messaging and almost 12,000 people with HIV testing through the Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program since 2009. The Malawi program’s unique features include the engagement of chaplains for disseminating HIV/AIDS prevention messages to youth and couples using the True Love Waits/True Love Stays methodology; self-help groups for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) focusing on empowerment, prevention, and care and support for PLHIV; training HIV positive military personnel as peer educators to strengthen prevention efforts among soldiers who are HIV positive; utilizing Theatre for Development, a behavior change communications methodology employing live interactive performances; and supporting income-generating activities for PLHIV.
The United States Agency for International Development, U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Catholic Relief Services, U.S. Department of Defense, Kirk Humanitarian
Click here to read PCI’s Malawi fact sheet.