Friday, December 21, 2007

WFP Malawi programmes suffer a financial setback

A Three year Social Protection of Food Insecurity and HIV/Aids Programme that was expected to be implemented by World Food Programme (WFP) from January 1, 2008 has stalled because lack of funds.

WFP come up with a programme that was to tackle widespread poverty and hunger across Malawi with the spectrum of interventions that provide emergency food support, disaster risk reduction as well as encouraging development through nutritional, educational and health related projects, according to information sourced on WFP report produced in November 2007.

The programme is expected to benefit 1.2 million Malawians, every year for three years, who are living in widespread poverty and hunger across the country.

WFP spokesperson Matthews Kumwenda said the programme has stall because donors have not yet fulfilled their pledges and that WFP does not have enough resources to proceed with the programme.

The project was a carry over of caseloads of projects that were benefiting HIV/Aids affected people, malnourished children and pregnant/lactating mothers which are scheduled to end, in the country, on December 31, 2007.

Kumwenda said WFP is remaining with money that would see the programme up to February next year and if the donors, who made the pledged to finance the programme will not come forth about 1.2 million Malawians would be affected.

“We have got maize that can be distributed up to February only and if no donor is going to come forward to assist that means we are going to cut down the number of beneficiaries and reduce the rations,” he said.

He also WFP would not be able to assist in the likehood that the country experiences heavy flood as the organization has no money to carry on such kind of projects.

Recent Metrological Department reports predicted that the Malawi would experience above normal rainfall and there is high likehood of floods.

In the report WFP said: “With no adequate resources to commence the project activities in January, there is a high risk that WFP Malawi may not be able to respond to floods when called upon to support victims. As early as November 16, 2007, there have been floods and hailstorms reported in seven districts with almost 2000 households affected.

“The Government of Malawi is constrained in terms of resources to handle a large scale flood disaster, and may not be able to cope with any farther floods as we move towards the peak of the rainy season where floods have been predicted,” read part of the report.

Commissioner for department of Relief and Disaster Preparedness Lilian Ng’oma said she was aware of the situation which WFP was in and that Malawi government has set aside money that would be used to respond in any eventuality.

“We would also rely on other NGO and faith groups, many others would come in,” she said.

She said Malawi has already started experiencing heavy storms in some places and that it will need the input of the donors.

WFP said the project focuses on disaster risk reduction and protecting the livelihoods of food-insecure and vulnerable people.

WFP assistance will address the food needs of households enduring successive shocks to health, food production and income that are at risk of hunger and poverty. Life-saving support will be given to people made food insecure by HIV/AIDS and to households with transitory food needs as a result of shock.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The beauty that is Malawi

Malawi is endowed with natural beauty. On December 13, I and several colleagues left Blantyre for Mulanje with escorting Pierre Cherruau a journalist from France who visited the country recently.

In the picture Cherruau and the rest of the team enjoying themselves at Dziwe la Nkhalamba in Mulanje

Reducing Southern Africa to a mere village

Quest for knowledge is a vital ingredient in all human endeavors. Greed for knowledge has forced a human being to undertake dangerous, hazardous and even fatal escapades.

The drive for a human being, in all aspects is to know, understand and utilize anything that would make him or her assume recognition in any endeavor he or she had undertaken.

The quest for knowledge has forced man, since time immemorial, to jump into a space ship and zoom to the uncharted spaces. It has forced man to hit the bottom rock of the deepest sea; it has also forced man to climb the tallest mountain.

The same quest for knowledge forced me, a reporter from Malawi to apply for an exchange programme, which NSJ was coordinating and I was attached to Public Eye, the leading newspaper in Lesotho.

Taking into account that Lesotho is within the Southern African region, and also after making several trips to South Africa, I had sketchy a picture of Lesotho politically, socially, economically and culturally.

With the fusion of cultural elements of the Bantu people and economic elements of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) which both Malawi and Lesotho belong, I had a picture of Lesotho which was more like South Africa economic wise and more like Malawi culturally. I was slightly wrong.

Armed with my knowledge of journalism, on April 31, 2007 I stepped into the Basotho land through the Maseru Boarder with South Africa for the first time, virtually with nothing to worry as I thought after working for a weekly newspaper in Malawi, a weekly in Lesotho would be a continuation of what I do in Malawi.

The first element to hit on my face was the fact that if I had to do my job well and enjoy my two months stay in Lesotho I had to learn Sesotho, the country's national language and I had to do it quickly. Lesotho is a country whose people enjoy speaking its language and nothing more.

My first days at Public Eye newspapers were basically spent on acclimatising; I was trying to understand the daily operations of the newspaper. Everything was a little bit different in the way the day to day operations were being conducted and I had to be fast in everything, to adapt.

Public Eye is a weekly newspaper that comes out on Friday, however, all the stories were supposed to be on the desk of the News Editor by Monday, unlike in my country at the newspaper I work, Malawi News a weekly also, stories are supposed to be ready by Thursday noon.

This departure, brought into me a sense of discipline to adhere to those new deadlines at least if I had to have my stories published.

Lesotho print media industry is comparatively small to Malawi. The country has got no daily paper; it has only one newspaper, Public Eye, in essence because the other so-called newspapers are printed on A-4 bond paper, looking more like a school magazine than a commercial newspaper.

Working in such environment would sound easier for every journalist taking into account that there is no serious competition, but in Lesotho the story is different, almost every newspaper printed in South Africa finds its way into Lesotho, in other words, Public Eye's competitors are none other the South Africa giants including the Sowetan, The Star, Mail & Guardian, The City Press and all other big papers. .

The big challenge to reporters, mainly at Public Eye, was to make the paper survive in such a juxtaposed market. Obviously the onus was on the reporters to come up with stories that would capture the interest of the Basotho people to give preference to their local newspapers when it is on the market with those big and well established newspapers.

As a reporter, in a new environment, seeking information, almost anything and everything was a way to take. Things that were basic and common to the Basotho people were strange and compound to me.

For Example, one day I asked why the Maseru City Assembly would allow people, including the Deputy Prime Minister, to keep cattle, right in the backyard of their houses in the city, a thing which is unheard of in Malawi. They shrugged their shoulders.

This other day I wondered why women in Lesotho, mostly those who have children, take their first child's name add a prefix 'Ma' and assume the name as theirs replacing their real names. I was told that was part of their tradition. Actually I was told a woman, in Lesotho, is legally recognised as a minor. I did a story, not for Public Eye, but for Malawi News. In Lesotho it was not newsworthy.

My seeking for explanation and answers for news articles and also as a survival tactic, sharpened my interviewing skills, my perception, sensitiveness and understanding of issues.

I had to understand issues before any attempt to write a story. I had to take into account all elements of social-economic, cultural and political issues so as not to offend or disappoint the people of Lesotho or not to attract scorn for myself for publishing something which I did not understand.

My stay is Lesotho would have been a nightmare or less eventful if the reporters at Public Eye had decided to abandon me and my other colleagues, Sinqobile Ndlovu from Zimbabwe and Augustine Mukoka from Zambia.

Masepoine Mokhetho, a female reporter, Thabang Loko, a sports reporter, Monke Sepamo a photographer, Thabo, a graphic designer and the News Editor Tapera Chikuvira made it possible for me and my friends to find Lesotho habitable.

The crew, at different times and in different situations, tried within their powers to make us understand what Lesotho is all about, what the aspirations of the people of Lesotho are, what is it that piss them off as well as what made the people of Lesotho different from people from other areas in the region.

It is not surprising to note that up to this date I always have an account of their lives, what they are doing and even their hopes. Networking or interaction has not been limited to the reporters in Lesotho. I have been in touch with Augustine and Sinqobile.

These people despite being friends, they have turned out to be my source of information. If I want information in their country I do not hesitate but to drop a line to them, and I am assured of their cooperation.

Such kind of cooperation has made the Sadc region as one village with journalists networking in such a manner that one would think they belong to the same publishing house and posted in different bureaus.

The cooperation has also increased confidence in journalists within the Sadc to tackle regional issues as they happen to have practical experience of the regional relationships.

To me anything to do with Lesotho generates interest because partly, after staying two months in that country, I regard the country as my home.

But would I tell Malawians my experience? The attempt to publicize the programme was through the stories I was writing for my newspaper in Malawi when I was in Lesotho.

As a reporter, anything that was a bit strange to me, though not to Basotho, I was writing a story for my Malawians audience.

In such a way I come back from Lesotho wiser and I believe so too are Malawians, since they were benefiting from the stories I was doing when I was in Lesotho.

My stay in Lesotho also assisted my critical analysis of the newspaper we produce; I have a benchmark to compare. Whether we are doing well in Malawi is for others to tell, but since then I regard myself not as a Malawian reporter but a regional reporter.

Aford ponders alliance with DPP

Alliance for Democracy new administration ponders of establishing links with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Malawi News has established.

Aford Executive Committee is expected to meet in Lilongwe on Tuesday where among other things the party is going to discuss possible alliance with the ruling party.

Malawi News source within the party, however, said the suggestion is expected to cause stir among the party gurus as some people view the suggestion based on individual benefits not in the interest of the party.

“Some people believe the suggestion come in as some of the top officials of the party have just won government tenders to make some constructions in Lilongwe,” said the source.

He said there some members have agreed to oppose the proposal.

“It will be very easy to defeat the proposal because is it going to come from a district governor, those who are propagating the idea has selected one district governor to make the proposal and would be seconded a member of the executive committee.
“While it is not a bad idea, somehow people are suspicious with the canvassing that is going on,” he said.

Aford deputy Spokesperson Kingsley Jere, while confirming the meeting would be taking place on Tuesday in Lilongwe, said he was not aware of the intended proposal.

Jere said the party at the moment still stands by its resolutions at the convention when it nullified all alliances that it had.

“What the President Dindi Gowa Nyasulu said about alliances was that the party is rebuilding itself and it has to go alone. I am not aware of any alliance talks,” he said.

Jere said he does not know any connection between the companies that were awarded the contracts and the party since the companies would belong to individual not the party.

Soon after being ushered in the office, the new Aford Executive Committee terminated the alliances which the party had with UDF.

DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said, while the party has not yet approached the party, the party has an open door policy and it can work with any party in the country.

“It is the wish of the State President to unify Malawians and no party in the world would refuse to work with another party,” he said.

Loveness Gondwe to form own party

Once might Alliance for Democracy (Aford) would soon find itself without a party representative in parliament as the sole Member of Parliament, Loveness Gondwe, contemplates forming own party.

Gondwe, who is currently in Portugal, has been lately flying around world canvassing for possible partners.

Gondwe husband, Yeremiah Chihana, said he does not have enough details on the issue but said the party would likely to be called Labour party.

Chihana said his wife has been to South Africa, Namibia and several other countries where she has been discussing with potential partners.

“I do not have enough information, but I am sure by next week everything will be known,” he said.

Aford Deputy Publicity Secretary Kingsley Jere said he was aware of the information that Gondwe, once she is back in the country would be tendering her resignation.

“We have information that she is forming her own party and that she has been flying outside the country sourcing for funding,” he said.

He, however, said that would not affect the operations of the party since, with the new leadership, it is working on retaining its old glory.

“We will be meeting in Lilongwe soon where we are trying to strategies as well as coming up with a programme to market our new president and the executive committee,” he said.

Gondwe was the remaining MP for Aford after losing several to President Bingu wa Mutharika’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and death.

The founding member Chakufwa Chihana died two years ago. Aford was once a formidable party winning 33 seats in the first general elections in 1994.

Gondwe has been acting president when the party was sailing through turbulence times—splitting into two camps—after the demise of its founding leaders.

Gondwe boycotted the convention which marshaled Dindi Gowa Nyasulu and the new Executive Committee into office.

If Gondwe quits the party, Aford for the first time in 13 years would have no representative in Parliament.

One book for 10 people

Malawians could be a bunch of idiots who have no time for books and newspapers, and if anything they are just idiotic lots who have unlimited time for nothing. That’s a typical fallacy of hasty generalisation.

Walking in the streets of Blantyre, Lilongwe and even Mzuzu during lunch or knocking off time, scores of middle-aged men and women would be seen moving up and down carrying bunches of books.

Books that are so heavy in their hands that they have to tilt when they are walking. And taking a closer look at one book, one would only understand the reason why young men and women take the trouble of carrying those kinds of books.

An even closer look could reveal the title of some of the books and lo! Banner titles as ‘Introduction to Economics level 2, or ‘Advanced Diploma in Marketing’ would greet one inquisitive eye. It is just inevitable those people have to carry those books.

Malawi National Library is no longer a place where you can find books that one can read for pleasure; National Library has been reduced to just an extension of schools as school going Malawians have turned the Library into a preparatory centre for any kind of examination.

Malawi, the country of over 14 million people, would be said to have fewer writers and by extension therefore, few people would read books for the fun of it. But this could also be just a fallacy.

In Paris, France, in metros and parks one finds people with their heads buried into their books, they talk less; they interact less and to some extent, may be they eat less as well. In short, on the outlook one would think the French read more books than Malawians.

However, the Malawian situation would also manifest in people of Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It would be very difficult to see an African displaying the novel he is reading, let alone the biography of a certain popular personality.

Africans do not read newspapers in minibuses, a good negligible number of Africans have access to ipods to listen to music while travelling. It is all just a new phenomenon.

But surprisingly an average African is more knowledgeable than an average European. An average African would know who the current president of USA is, how the Venezuelan President failed to get his way on the recent elections.

My assumption would be that an average African would read more books and have more information than an average European; however the hazy picture we all have is that Europeans are better of than Africans in terms of reading culture.

Where do they get the information? By traditional Africa likes sharing. Africans, including Malawians would share anything ranging from food to sometimes, in certain traditions, spouses.

Through this mentality of sharing, Africans are well informed and have access to a lot of information they seem not to have. If I buy a Compact Disc of Etienne Mbappe chances are that it would find its way into over 20 homes within a short period of time. The same applies to books, newspaper and magazines.

An average African is at a very economical disadvantage that buying a Chinua Achebe book would be more of a luxury, while there is a serious quest for knowledge; financial limitations are obvious the stumbling block.

It is obvious that there is serious confusion between reading culture and buying culture, I will emphatically agree that Malawians, like most Africans, do not like to buy literature materials but that does not mean they do not read. It’s the absence of the buying culture that makes people to make a sweeping statement that Malawians do not read after all.

Of pampered failures and satisfied officials

I would hate to associate myself with foul language at any time of the day, anywhere! I would hate myself if I could condone the use of foul language at anyone, anywhere! I have a religious background and it is obvious that religion frowns at the use of vulgar language.

Sometimes I do not understand why a person so angry should insult another person; however I have come to accept that in some line of duty some of the things are unavoidable.

Those people who had or still have an opportunity to work or visit a country like South Africa would attest how rough, in language and action, South Africans are. You just have to be vigilant and quick to survive in South Africa. The principle of hit before you are hit rules in South Africa.

In my life I have come into contact so many times with the use of vulgar language be it at place of work or otherwise. I understand in some cultures within Malawi it is acceptable to use vulgar language in anything including thanking a person.

Naturally bad words are just bad. However, people tend to use foul words when they are angry, unsatisfied or helpless, in short people tend to use vulgar language when they least expected that they are going to use the words, when the emotions surpass expectations.

I have heard people—who, by virtue of their position in a society, and are supposed to be exemplary—calling one another bad names and insults and other unpalatable vocabulary making thousand of people cry with laughter.

Football is a game of emotions and the world over, there are numerous examples on how people expressed or express their emotions. Winning teams have got their way of expressing happiness and losing teams have got their way of reacting to lose.

Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, once after losing a game whizzed a football boot at their star player then David Beckham and Beckham sustained a cut above the eye.

Here we are talking of big names in football and after the incident (not soon after) Beckhan left the club and Ferguson stayed put. It was water under the bridge as some people say.

In Malawi I have heard spectators showering insults at Malawian players, so too I have read unpalatable writing relating to Malawian teams perennial underperformances.

For those of us who are privileged enough to watch games from the open terraces, it is an order of the day for Malawian supporters to heap insults at our good national team, every time our team loses, which is more often.

One Fam official is on record to have described some Malawi professional players, after losing a match in South Africa, as ‘mbuzi za ma professional.’ That official was not relieved of his office because of that.

Frustrated supporters use unpalatable words elsewhere in the world, then what is wrong with one person Steven Constantine, at the heat of frustration, say one or two f-words to our proud failures who parade in the name of national team.

Like some tribes in Malawi, the use of f#*words among Europeans is nothing but normal, they would use it in front of their wives, their children even in front of their in laws.

As a nation it would be imperative to understand other people’s back ground and willing to accommodate it.

I was actually shocked to realize that instead of Malawians chiding our pampered players who are continously embarrassing the nation with their underperformance, we are wasting our energy trying to fault Constantine.

It is shocking that instead of reacting to the poor performance of the teams, football officials in the country ganged up against Constantine on an issue far related to Constantine.

I am really shocked, and of course amazed by our Under 20 football players, how they managed to divert the country’s wrath from themselves to Constantine.

Constantine’s outbursts have been used as a mere scapegoat and it is unfortunate to realize everybody bought this cheap move, that is from the minister of sports himself to the president of Fam Walter Nyamilandu, desperate for another term to the last man in the street.

The story here in Malawi in on how Constantine insulted our good boy, how he insulted foreigners, nobody is talking about how these boys who wasted millions of Kwachas of our hard earned tax money.

Who would have been clapping has for the boys who have just been booted from the competition, who would allow some misguided boys to mess up his lucrative job. I understand Constantine bitterness, the guy pockets over K2 million a month and who would allow somebody to mess up such a deal.

We might have problems with Constantine and we might wish to find way and means of chucking him out of the country, but cornering him for some words he used in the line of duty would be overstretching our marks.

I found the minister remarks in the paper over this issue misplaced, while we appreciate that he is the minister of sports I think it is high time the minister desists from commenting on every issue related to football.

I would wish one football player, in his careers that have never experienced such kind of treatment from the coaches and officials to cast the first stone at Constantine. Otherwise we are wasting our energy negatively.

About 2.7 million Malawians living in ultra poverty: Any escape

People have used the clichés like: Living below poverty line or sometimes, Living on less than one US dollar a day: so much so that the clichés meaning has been diluted. However the clichés remain as meaningful as they were 10 years ago.

From a distance these clichés would look like some rhetoric economic jargon formulated somewhere in the corridors of Bertwood compound in the suburb of the New York in the USA.

However, as foreign as they might look or sound, realism stares squarely on the face of over millions of Malawians. At least 22 percent of Malawians are living way below the poverty line.

Facts on the ground reveal that over 2.7 million people in Malawi are not really living on assumed one US dollar a day; they are actually living on some money basically I the ranges of below K44 a year.

Preposterous as it may sound but it is real. Human Development Index—2006 and 2005 Integrated Household Survey indicates that about 2.7 million Malawians are living in ultra poverty.

In short in Malawi there are people cannot afford a square meal a day in their lives, the basic United Nations (UN) indicator of poverty. These people are actually below the 52 percent of Malawians—about 6.4 million who are leaving below poverty line or they are earning less the minimum one US dollar a day.

Loose mathematics would lead to a conclusion that some Malawians—in ultra poverty category—would earn about K3.60 a month and a shocking K0.01 tambala a day. Now this is poverty.

For instance, take a Members of Parliament (MP) in Malawi—for argument sake—who gets over K300, 000 a month, mathematically getting about k10, 000 a day, obviously these MPs live way above poverty line and contrast with a K0.01 a day of the voter—the person who put them in the office.

However, the sad story about Malawi or Malawians is that the MP’s K10, 000 a day take home package is as good as K0.01 the poorest of the poorest get a day because, both living slightly below or slightly above the poverty line are, effectively the same. Vulnerable!

Some million of Malawians could be slightly above the poverty line, or slightly below the poverty line, some would be way below the poverty line while other would be up above poverty line, but through an umbilical code of some kind they are joined ,one fact remains that they are all exposed to poverty.

“Any slight change on the economy it would mean a change in the whole status of people in the country. lt would be easy for those living above the poverty line to fall below or those below to go up depending o the situation, people in Malawi are vulnerable,” said Dr Blessing Chisinga, a political scientist at Chancellor College University of Malawi main campus.

Chinsinga made this observations when he was presenting a paper during the workshop in Blantyre when Institute for Policy Research and Social Empowerment (IPR SE).

Chisinga presented a case in his presentation titled Understanding Poverty and Vulnerability where it was indicated that all almost all Malawians would be regarded as simply poor because most of the people living above poverty line in Malawi re merely ‘poor people of tomorrow’.

“One can be vulnerable but not necessarily poor especially for those earning their live hoods just above the poverty line—these people are sometimes referred to as tomorrow poor since their live hoods are precarious and may not be able to withstand any serious shock.

“Vulnerability does not simply refer to those people who are likely to become poor in future due to an unexpected shock but also those who will remain poor those who will fall deeper into poverty and those who may fall into poverty due to unpredictable fluctuations such as seasonality,” said Chisinga in his presentation.

“If the Kwacha could fall today say with 50 percent, most of the people who are slightly above poverty line today would fall under, that is the risk we are living in,” he said.s

Currently only 37 percent of Malawians live above poverty line and out of these about 45 percent are more vulnerable because they live slightly above the poverty line while 63 percent lives below poverty line with 22 percent living way below.

These would simply mean Malawians are technically poor. This is not new fact. Currently Malawi, under 2006 Human Development Index complied by United Nations Development Programme, is ranked 166 out of 178 of the poorest countries in the world despite the micro-economic growth that have been achieved in recent years.

Since 1995 several interventions, through formulation of well articulated juicy polices like Poverty Alleviation programme, Poverty Eradication, Targeted in Put programme, Vision 2020, Malawi Growth Development Strategy and the fertiliser subsidy programmes. Malawi was expected to move an itch out of poverty, but nay Malawians are as poor as they were several years ago.

These Safety Nets have been effective in mitigating several economic hardship but they have failed to alleviate poverty for the past 11 years.

In 1990 Malawi was ranked 138 out of the 178 countries that UNDP and in 2005 Malawi is still the poorest country with a steady decline in health care delivery, education, economic growth and general living standards.

Institute for Policy Research and Social Empowerment (IPRSE), a Non Government Organisation (NGO) specialised on policy matters, is working on a new concept. Social Cash Transfer as a social programme.

The programme is being piloted in four districts of Mchinji, Likoma, Salima and Machinga where over 3 000 house holds are receiving money, on monthly basis for their basic needs.

IPRSE Director of Programmes and Development Paul Msoma said Social Cash Transfers programme aims to provide basic social protection to sections of the population, who for some reasons, beyond their control, are unable to provide for themselves.

“The Cash transfer Programme is attached to conditions like regular attendance of schools and health services. In contrast to emergency programmes which are designed for temporary relief, cash transfer scheme are permanent programmes that transfer cash on the regular and reliable basis to House Hold or persons that meet certain criteria,” he said.

However, the pre-condition for the establishment of the Social Cash Transfer are political will, administrative capacity and financial resources.

“Political relevant groups like government, political parties, parliament, religious leaders and civil society should understand this programme is apolitical, he said.

The pilot project has proved that House Holds receiving grants use them for food, health care for family, for basic education and investment in physical capital that can provide a future source of income.

“The additional purchasing power to the House Hold has a multiplier effect and strengthens the local economy and the empirical evidence show that Social Cash Transfer kick starts virtuous cycle.

The programme is also being implemented in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia and Ethiopia in Africa, in Asia the programme is being implemented in China, India, Bangladesh and Nepal while in Latin America the programme is being implemented in Brazil, Mexco, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ministry of Health rolls out new Malaria drugs

Ministry of Health on Thursday this week rolled out the new malaria drug replacing the Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine (SP)—Fansida and Novida’s—which has been on the market for over a decade.
Principal Secretary in the ministry of Health Chris Kang’ombe confirmed that hospitals in the country would now start dispersing the new malaria drugs—Lumefantrine-Artimeth and Amudiquint-Artesunate.
“We have officially launched the new drug the ceremony was in Mchinji,” he said.
For the past weeks, Ministry of Health has been orienting clinicians’ throughout the country on the new drug.
A clinical officer who was conducting training at the country’s major referral hospital Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) Paul Pensulo said over the referral hospital could only start dispersing the new drug after the over 600 personnel at the hospital have all undergone the training.
“QECH would not start soon because training is still underway, we are having a three day workshop for 60 clinicians, we can only start dispersing after we have finished with the training,” he said.
QECH Administrative Director Thom Chisale said his hospital is expected to roll out the new drug in January next year.
“All the trials have been finished and the drug has been approved,” he said.
Lumefantrine-Artimeth and Amudiquint-Artesunate are combinations of four drugs would replace the SPs which are no longer effective in fighting malaria.

According to internet information sourced at website Zambia was the first African country to adopt an artemisinin-based combination treatment as its national policy.

The website indicated that malaria treatment and control have been undermined by the emergence of resistance to commonly-used antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine (CQ) and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP).

“Unacceptably high resistance to commonly used antimalarial drugs prompted the choice of artemether-lumefantrine ( AL ) as first line treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria.. The safety of AL has been extensively reviewed and several trials, in Africa all of them in children, have demonstrated its efficacy.

“ AL exists as a fixed tablet formulation and it has been registered in a large number of countries under the names of Coartem® or Riamet®. The fixed tablet formulation helps to overcome problems of compliance associated with non-coformulated combinations,” reads part of the website.      

Muluzi to appoint own running mate

The sole UDF presidential aspirant Bakili Muluzi, who is also the party’s National Chairman, is going to appoint his own running mate if the party’s convention schedule for December 19, 2007 passes the amendment proposal of Article 39 (b) of  the party’s constitution. Malawi News has established.
Top on the agenda during the convention is the election of the UDF presidential candidate and his running mate, the party delegates are also expected to amend Article 39 (b) of the party’s constitution that empowers the delegates to appoint the presidential candidate and his or her running mate.
The said article reads in part: “Party presidential candidate and his or her running mate for the National Presidential Elections shall be elected by the national conference preceding the National Presidential Elections.
However, the amendment Article would be empowering Muluzi, the only known presidential aspirant in the party—not the delegates, to handpick his own running mate.
UDF spokesperson Sam Mpasu confirmed that the said Article in the party’s constitution would be presented to the delegates for amendment.
Mpasu said the decision to amend the constitution was proposed by the National Executive Committee (Nec) saying the Nec decided to amend the clause to revert to the old system.
Mpasu said 1993 convention the UDF presidential candidate, then Bakili Muluzi, chose his running mate, Justin Malewezi, however the party amended the clause when at, 2003 convention, it abolished the position of the president in the party and left the leadership of the party in the hands of the national Chairman not the president.   
“This means that the presidential candidate shall handpick his or her own running mate,” he said.
Article 39 (i) of the UDF constitution empowers the Returning Officer of the elections at the convention to declare winner any member who has not been challenged at any position.
In part the Article read: “Where the Returning Officer receives only one nomination for any office, the nominee shall be regarded as duly elected to that office and it shall not be necessary for the national conference to vote for that office.” 
Mpasu said, so far nobody, apart from the party’s National Chairman Muluzi, has put up his or her name for nominations or consideration in the forth coming party’s conference for the position of the party’s presidential candidate.
Mpasu said he was surprised that the party’s Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala announced that four people would be contesting with Muluzi for the position of the presidential candidate when four others withdrew their candidature in respect of the Muluzi.
“We will seek clarification from the Secretary General regarding who else is disrespectful to the national chairman when four party gurus withdrew their candidature out of respect. That is very surprising,” he said.
Mpasu said four members, himself, Friday Jumbe, Cassim Chilumpha and Brown Mpinganiira had interest in the presidential candidacy but withdrew to give respect to the Muluzi, who had then shown interest to contest in the national presidential elections.
But UDF Deputy Secretary General Hophman Makande said the party would not know other presidential aspirants before the national executive committee of the party has vetted them.
“Names of nominees are posted in a box and they would only be known when the UDF Nec vet them names and we are waiting for the Nec to announce names,” he said.
However, according to the Article 39 (f) (i) of the party’s constitution, Muluzi would be limited to choose his running mate within the UDF fold as it forbid the selection of person outside the UDF party to the position of the presidential candidate and his running mate.
One political observer, who is an Executive Director of a human right organization Malawi Watch, Billy Banda said the proposed amendment would have an effect on the loyalty of the party members as allegiance would be shifted from the party to the individuals, who have absolute power to make appointments.
Banda said amending constitutions to suit individual needs erode the democratic principals and personalize institutions.
“Despite that if anything happens to the incumbent the possibility of somebody to rise to the position without the blessing of the electorate would be high. However the positive part of it is that it would help in solving the presidential quandaries like that have been seen in president Bingu wa Mutharika and his vice Cassim Chilumpha,” He said.
At the 2003 convention UDF delegates elected Muluzi’s anointed candidate Bingu wa Mutharika and his running mate Cassim Chilumpha who proceeded to win the 2004 national presidential elections. However the two fell out when Mutharika quit UDF and form DPP, Chilumpha remained in UDF.