The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country bordered by Zambia to the west, Tanzania to the north, and Mozambique to the west and south. Malawi covers an area of 118,480 km2, which is about one-third the size of Japan. The population of Malawi is 13.2 million, according to the 2008 Malawi National Population Census. The population is therefore just higher than that of Tokyo in Japan.
Malawi contains an abundance of pristine nature. The Great Rift Valley runs through the country from the north to the south. Beautiful Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa and the 10th largest in the world, covers 20% of the area of the country. The tallest mountain in the country is Mount Mulanje, which is about the same height as Mt. Fuji, at 3,002 meters.
Malawi has a sub-tropical climate. The wet season is typically from November to April. Average rainfall during this period is from 725mm to 2,500mm. The cool-dry season is from May to August during which temperatures range between 17 and 27 Degree Celsius. The hot-dry season occurs between September and October, when temperatures range between 25 and 37 Celsius. However, the weather seems to be changing over time, probably due to climate changes.
Governance and Structure.
The Republic of Malawi has a five year presidential government since 1994 through democratic elections with total separation of powers amongst the executives, legislative (parliament) and judiciary. However, the structure for public governance is divided into central government and local government through decentralization policy. The latter include the city assemblies, town assemblies and district assemblies. They are local government authorities empowered under Malawi constitutional law to form by-laws in various departments through the assistance of the three arms of government at city assembly, town assembly and district assembly levels.
National Environmental Health Policy
Environmental Health Situation.
- Several pieces of legislation and regulations exist, some of them are outdated and the administration is fragmented between different government agencies.
- The coordination and formal consultation between the Ministry of Health and Population and relevant government agencies responsible for formulating and implementing sector policies that may impact on environmental health is limited and inadequate.
- Inter-sectoral cooperation and community participation is currently weak and needs to be strengthened at different levels.
- In most peri-urban and rural local communities, small to medium enterprises and informal settlements, the environmental health services are limited and not well developed.
- The inadequate technical, material and financial support are major constraints to implementing the environmental health programs.
Principles/Philosophy of environmental health policy.
- Commitment to improve health status for all.
- Provide for a legal framework for formulating and updating sectoral legislation, policies and strategies to include environmental health intervention.
- Inter-sectoral coordination and cooperation.
- Establish criteria, develop and enforce statutory environmental health quality standards.
- Give high priority in allocating the necessary financial and material resources to enable the effective and efficient implementation of the environmental health programs at all levels.
- Human resources development.
- Establish clear guidelines on the roles and shared responsibilities for relevant government agencies and local authorities in carrying out the policy.
- Information and data management.
- Environmental health education and public awareness.
10. Research and technology development.
11. Environmental health impact assessment and auditing.
12. Establish and maintain streamlined control systems and procedures for inspecting and certifying imports and exports that may be sources of diseases from other countries.
13. International instruments or regional protocols on particular environmental health aspects shall be adopted, after thorough and review of the practical implications on the national legislation, regulations and practice of environmental health.
14. Decentralization and equitable distribution of services.
15. Develop indicators and standards that can be used to determine, measure and assess whether the environmental health services are effective and adequately address the goals and objectives of the policy.
Environmental Health Policy Goals.
- Give high priority and support or environmental health measures aimed at preventing and controlling of environmental health factors and occupational health hazards.
- Recognize environmental health as a fundamental right to good health, well-being and to improved quality of life.
- Promote the principles of integrated environmental health intervention measures based on inter-sectoral and community participation and improved co-ordination within the Ministry of Health and Population, and with relevant government agencies and NGOs.
- Establish a pro-active, accessible and affordable integrated and holistic environmental health services at national, district and local levels with effective co-ordination and co-operation with relevant government agencies, local authorities and the private sector.
- Ensure the provision of effective financial, material and technical support in order to plan and execute uniformly environmental health services for the benefit of all the people.
- Harmonize the sectoral policies with the environmental health policy.
- Promote gender-balance by creating an enabling environment at all levels in order for women to actively participate and play key roles in decision-making processes.
- Enhance public awareness and education of the importance of environmental health measures in promoting sustainable development to alleviate poverty and improving the health status and quality of life of the population.
Environmental Health Policy Objectives.
- Review existing legislation to remove any ambiguity, gaps, inconsistencies and duplication depending on the research findings.
- Institutional organization – at the national level, the Ministry of Health and Population, shall be responsible for formulating, implementing and coordinating cross-sector policies and programs in environmental health and its capacity shall be strengthened. The department of environmental health shall take the lead in regulating, enforcing and monitoring of compliance with statutory requirements on environmental health and for defining the roles and responsibilities at different levels.
- Establishing of district assembly management teams.
- Train, motivate and retain staff so as to promote and enforce preventive environmental health interventions.
- Promotion of gender balance.
- Inter-sectoral and community participation
- Develop guidelines on how to carry out environmental health impact assessment process.
- Facilitate the preparation of environmental health action plans.
- Technical support services.
10. Establish a national data management system and network for handling and exchange of information.
Stakeholders of Environmental Health in Malawi
- Ministry of Health and Population.
- The Directorate of Preventive Health Services.
- The National Environmental Health Office.
- The City Environmental Health Office.
- The Town Environmental Health Office.
- The District Environmental Health Office.
- The Community Environmental Health Offices.
- The Rural Assistant Environmental Health Offices which are managed by Assistant Environmental Health Officers and the recommended ratio to population size to serve is 1:20,000.
- The Village Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs). The recommended ratio of HSAs to population size in Malawi is 1:1000 and am happy to report that this target was reached in 2008 (MOH SWAP Report, 2008).
- Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs.
- The Food and Natural Resource Sector.
- The Environment and Land management Sector.
- The Energy Sector.
- The Mine Sector.
- Ministry of Local Government.
- The City Assembly Environmental Offices.
- The Town Assembly Environmental Offices.
- The District Assembly Environmental Offices.
- Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
- All other government ministries and departments.
- Regulatory Governmental Bodies including:
- Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA).
- Malawi Pharmacy, Medicines and Poisons Board (MPMB).
- Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS).
- The National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST).
- The National Research Council of Malawi (NRCM).
- Malawi Environmental Conservation Trust (MECT).
- Consumer’s Association of Malawi (CAMA).
- Environmental and Health Civil Society Organizations including Environmental Health Association of Malawi.
- Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
- Private Institutions and Organizations in Malawi.
- International, Regional, African and Global Agencies or Organizations.
Guiding Tools for Environmental Health in Malawi
- The National Environmental Health Policy.
- The Environmental Health Act.
- The Environmental Management Act (1996).
- The Malawi Pharmacy, Medicine and Poison Act.
- The Biosafety Act (2002).
- The Biosafety Protocol (2000).
- The Science and Technology Act.
- The Occupation Safety and Health Act
- The Tourism Act.
10. The Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy (MPRS).
11. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS).
Responsibilities of Stakeholders concerned with the Provision of Environmental Health Services in Malawi.
Environmental health services.
Environmental health is concerned with:
- Safe drinking water, sanitary disposal of human excreta.
- Safety in the use, handling and disposal of harmful chemical substances.
- Radiation protection.
- Notifiable diseases.
- Vector borne diseases, control of environmental pollution.
- Appropriate and safe waste management practices.
- Control of environmental pollution.
- Appropriate and safe waste management practices.
- Occupational health and hygiene services; port health.
- Pest control.
- Food hygiene and safety practices.
- Housing and infrastructure settlements.
- Personal hygiene and general household cleanliness.
Provision of environmental health services.
The Directorate of Preventive Health Services is responsible for implementing the environmental health policy through the Department of Environmental Health Services, District Assemblies (or City Assemblies or Town Assemblies) and Community-Based Management Teams. The statutory responsibility for enforcing and monitoring the implementation of the policy at all levels shall be carried out by environmental health officers. Roles and responsibilities have been allocated to different levels of environmental health services. These comprise the national level, district assembly level, enterprise level and the community level.
National Level Functions:
- Initiate the review and development of legislation, standards, policies and guidelines on environmental health.
- Establish mechanisms for inter-sectoral coordination and community participation.
- Develop guidelines for an integrated and decentralized environmental health management system including environmental health impact assessment and action plans.
District Assembly Level:
- Participate in district assembly management teams and development committees.
- Monitoring and evaluation of environmental health programs.
- Review and approve environmental health impact assessment reports and action plans.
- Conduct education and information campaigns to promote environmental health.
- Maintain a data-base and information net-work on environmental health.
- Prepare periodical reports on the state of environmental health in the district.
- Formulate sector environmental health policy and procedures.
- Ensure compliance with all statutory regulations and standards on environmental health.
- Establish training and information programs for workers and surrounding communities.
- Carry out surveillance of workers’ health and working environment.
- Establish community-based development and management committees for environmental health programs.
- Participate in policy decisions to identify and determine local priorities in resources, developmental projects and services in environmental health.
- Develop plans and mobilize the community for timely response to emergencies and management of epidemics.
- Participate in the monitoring and evaluation of effectiveness of environmental health intervention measures.
Environmental Health Policy Implementation.
- The implementation of the environmental health policy shall evolve from the Directorate of Preventive Health Services which will be responsible for the coordination with relevant government agencies at the national level and supervision of either City Assembly Management Teams or Town Assembly Management Teams or District Assembly Management Teams, promotion of inter sectoral cooperation and define the shared responsibilities with local authorities and encourage community participation.
- To ensure effective implementation of the national environmental health policy, a strategy to implement each of the environmental health programs should be formulated and developed in consultation with stakeholders and community participation.
- Information and Emergency Preparedness and Response. Under this theme, directorate of preventive health services shall enhance together with other stakeholders including the directorate of Disaster and Emergency Preparedness with superfund raising public awareness on all disease prevention and control strategies from environmental health intervention measures. There is need to develop emergency preparedness and response strategies and procedures which should be widely circulated and explained to environmental health officers and communities.
Environmental Health Policy Evaluation.
The Republic of Malawi just like other developing countries worldwide is striving to reach the famous Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. In September 2000, 189 heads of state and governments gathered at the United Nations in New York at the Millennium Summit and adopted what became known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Targets. A set of time-bound goals, the MDGs are an embodiment of wider human concerns and issues – they are “people-centered” and measure human progress. Amongst the eight goals, the seventh is directly measuring environmental health impact through promotion of the environmental sustainability. The baseline environmental health outcome indicators in the Malawi were 41.4%, 81% and 81% in 1999 for forest cover for non-agricultural land, households with sanitary plants (sanplants) for sanitation and households with improved water sources, respectively against targets of 84%, 100% and 100%, respectively by 20151. The regression and progress so far is the reduction in proportion of non-agricultural land under cover from 41.4 percent in 1992 to 36.2 percent in 2005 and the proportion of population with access to improved sanitation increased from 81 percent in 1999 to 88 percent in 2006, respectively.
Malawi Environmental Health Policy and Regulation, and the Malawi Constitution.
In Malawi, the Environmental Health Policy and Constitution articulate a common stand together with section 5 of the Environmental Management Act by guaranteeing every person a right to a clean and healthy environment. This human right flows from the Constitutional Principles of National Policy in respect to the environment. Section 13 (d) of the Malawi Constitution which spells out the principles in this respect is in the following terms;
“The State shall actively promote the welfare and development of the people of Malawi by progressively adopting and implementing policies and legislation aimed at achieving the following goals-
(d) The Environment
To manage the environment responsibly in order to-
(i) prevent the degradation of the environment;
(ii) provide a healthy living and working environment for the people of Malawi;
(iii) accord full recognition to the rights of future generations by means of environmental protection and the sustainable development of natural resources;
(iv) conserve and enhance the biological diversity of Malawi.”
The Environmental Management Act of 1996.
The Environmental Management Act of 1996 (the EMA) is another piece of legislation of considerable significance on biosafety in Malawi. The fundamental tenets of environmental protection and management namely, precaution and polluter pays, lie at the heart of this piece of legislation. The embodiment of these principles coupled with Parliament’s bold attempt to include risk assessment and management measures in part fulfils Malawi’s obligations as provided by Article 16 of the Biosafety Protocol.
The EMA is an Act that makes provision for the protection and management of the environment and the conservation and sustainable utilization of natural resources. The Act under section 4 of the EMA recognizes that the natural and genetic resources of Malawi are the property of the people of Malawi, and section 3 (1) continues to cast a duty “on every person to take all necessary and appropriate measures to protect and manage the environment and to conserve natural resources and promote the sustainable utilization of natural resources.” The Act further guarantees every person a right to a clean and healthy environment in section 5 of the EMA.
Part V of the EMA deals with Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). Environmental Impact Assessment is increasingly used as a mechanism to implement the precautionary principle that the Biosafety Protocol articulates. Under section 24 (1) of the EMA, the Minister (Mines, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs) has powers, on recommendation from the council, to issue a notice published in a gazette, specifying types and sizes of projects amenable to EIAs before implementation. A notice issued under the said provision by the Ministry of Mines, Natural Resources and the Environmental Affairs Department through the Government Notice No. 42 of 1998, does not specifically list biotechnology projects. However, it can be argued that clauses 13 and 14 of the notice impliedly cover this area in so far as it involves the introduction of exotic species which in turn may affect natural resources. Section 24 (2) of the EMA requires a developer of such a listed project to submit to the Office of the Director General, a project brief stating, inter alia, the description of the project activities to be undertaken and their impact in the implementation of the project, and the segment (s) of the environment likely to be affected in the implementation of the project. If such information is sufficient, the Director General shall require the developer to conduct an EIA. Section 25 (1) lists down the details that the EIA report must encompass. One shortfall of the Act is that it leaves the developer to his own devices to conduct an EIA and compile the report and makes no attempt to involve an independent expert to make an independent assessment at the expense of the developer. The Act, therefore, fails to put in place elaborate mechanisms and measures to check the veracity of the contents of an EIA report. The Act attempts to do this by requiring the Director General to call for public comments on EIA reports. This attempt is, however, inane as projects on biotechnology involve issues of scientific intricacy and such an exercise might not benefit any probative endeavor by the laity in terms of constructive criticism. However, for public governance, this procedure is a welcome concept but it will make more sense at a time when Malawi will have many civil organizations with necessary tools and devices to monitor and measure metrologically the parameter in question. Furthermore, the attempt to establish a penal regime by criminalizing the giving of false information in EIA reports in a way defeats the very essence upon which the principle of precaution is founded as harm and damage might have already been done at the time it would become apparent that the information is false. It is therefore more fundamental to prevent the environmental pollution at the initial stage of any project by verifying the information rendered with the actual process independently to protect the people from any possible catastrophe secondly to false EIA information.
Part VII of the Act deals with environmental management. The office of the Director General is established under section 9 of the EMA. The duties of the Director include, inter alia, carrying out the duties specified by the Act and “the implementation of policies relating to the protection, management, of the environment and the conservation and sustainable utilization of resources that the Minister may determine”. Section 31 mandates the Minister of the field in question to determine fiscal incentives necessary for ‘promoting the protection and management of the environment and the conservation and sustainable utilization of natural resources’. It also mandates the Minister to take such measures as are necessary for preventing the unsustainable use of natural resources. This section gives the Minister unfettered powers to determine necessary measures to be adopted in preventing the unsustainable use of natural resources. This unfettered power is fundamental as it gives a leeway to the Minister to regulate scenarios that are unforeseeable at the moment but may arise in future with scientific backing from researches.
Sections 32 to 35 provide mechanisms for the conservation of biological diversity. Under section 32, a Minister can declare an area to be an environmental protection area. And under section 33 the Director General has powers to issue Environmental Protection Orders (EPO) against a person whose acts or omissions have or are likely to have adverse effects on the protection of the environment37. This clause is very paramount because problems of deliberate environmental degradation are rampant in Malawi compelled by high poverty levels which in part explain low agricultural production. This forces farmers to subsidize their diets by hunting animals. Economic stability and Genetic Modification Agriculture can reduce the harvest pressure on native biodiversity. The cutoff poverty line, which is defined in terms of having enough income for a specified amount of food, was in 1998 estimated to be at K10.47 per day in Malawi (exchange rate at the time, 1998 was MK 31.1 to U$ 1). Therefore, this section as read together with section 34 attempt to establish a liability and redress regime as they embody “the polluter pays principle”.
As a matter of fact, subsection 2 of section 33 provides also unfettered powers that the Environmental Protection Order (EPO) may require the person against whom it is issued to, inter alia, take measures to restore, stop, remove or pay compensation. If the person fails to comply with the EPO, the Director General can fulfill the requirements set out in the EPO and the expenses so incurred are recoverable by the government from the defaulter as a civil debt.
Malawi Bureau of Standards
The Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) was established approximately 30 years ago. The Bureau is a statutory institution under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Private Sector Development. It is responsible for standards development, quality assurance, testing and metrology. However, by 2004, the laboratories at the MBS were not yet accredited (MBS, 2004).
The Science and Technology Policy.
The policies on environmental health in Malawi are formulated based on scientific findings from various players in research and development. For eloquent presentation in this paper, the research and development performing institutions shall be sub-divided in into five groups for discussion purposes, namely; the government-based research institutions, the higher learning institutions, the statutory research institutions, the private research institutions and the international research institutions.
1. Government-based Research Institutes.
These institutes are set up and controlled by government. All their funding comes directly from government revenue and development budgets.
|Research Institute||Where it is located|
|Central Veterinary Laboratory||Agriculture and Food Security|
|Central Water Laboratory||Irrigation and Water Development|
|Community Health Sciences Unit (CHSU)||Health|
|Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS)||Agriculture and Food Security|
|Fisheries Research Unit||Mines, Energy and Natural Resources|
|Forestry Research Institute of Malawi||Mines, Energy and Natural Resources|
|Geological Survey Department||Mines, Energy and Natural Resources|
|Health Sciences Research Unit||Health|
|Meteorological Department||Transport and Public Works|
|National Aquaculture Center||Mines, Energy and Natural Resources|
|Wildlife Research Unit in the Department of Parks and Wildlife||Mines, Energy and Natural Resources|
2. The Higher Learning Institutions.
The University of Malawi through its five constituent colleges, Mzuzu University and other numerous Private Universities provide a strong national research entity in different fields, most of them related to environmental health. For instance, the Center for Water, Sanitation, Health, and Appropriate Technology Development at Polytechnic; the Center for Reproductive Health and Bioethics Research Unit at College of Medicine; the Center for Natural Resource and Environment, Molecular Biology and Ecology Research Unit at Chancellor College.
3. The Statutory Research Institutes.
These are government-assisted institutes that work outside the normal government settings. The most notable here are the Malawi Industrial Research and technology Development Center, and the National Herbarium and Botanic Gardens of Malawi. It is interesting to note the enthusiasm of the former center which initiated the research on Ethanol-Driven Vehicle in Malawi for five years now and the results are reported to be successful for environmental friendly machinery in automobile. Supporters of the project argue that a switch to ethanol fuel would not only benefit the environment but also increase employment in the country’s sugarcane industry and save on foreign exchange spent on fuel imports.
The Malawi government is promoting imported ethanol-fuelled cars to wean the country off its fossil fuel dependency and better harness the country’s ethanol industry.
Malawi’s department of science and technology, in partnership with the privately owned Ethanol Company of Malawi (ETHCO), is promoting the import of Brazilian-made ‘flex-fuel’ vehicles, propelled by locally manufactured sugarcane ethanol. In automobile industry, the Malawi Government is indeed taking a bold stand to promote environmental health. Until February 2006, all cars in Malawi used leaded petrol blended with 20 per cent ethanol. Since then, the country has switched to unleaded petrol blended with 10 per cent ethanol. Proponents of ethanol use argue that continued over-dependence on fossil fuels has economic, social, climate and biodiversity impacts for humans and the entire ecosystem. Malawi produces ethanol from sugar molasses in bulk amounts at Dwangwa from Illovo Sugar (Malawi) Group, in the central region lakeshore district of Nkhota-kota.
4. The Private Research Institutes.
The most outstanding research company here is the Illovo Sugar (Malawi) Group. Sugarcane is one of the important forex earning cash crops in the country.
5. The International Research Institutes.
There are several international research institutions operationalizing in Malawi. Some notable ones are Wellcome Trust; the WorldFish Center; the Research Foundation of Central Africa which is located in Malawi but conducts research for Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia; the International Center for Research in Agro-forestry; and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.
The Republic of Malawi is a sovereign state with National Constitution and various Acts enacted by the Malawi Parliament to promote the health of her people as she strives to maintain the pristine status quo of her ecological environment. Therefore, the government has the machinery to develop, design, regulate and reinforce public policies and laws designed to protect the health of the public from environmentally caused diseases.
Right to a clean and healthy environment in Malawi is a human right quaranteed by her National Constitution of the land. It is also interesting to note that there are various Acts enacted by the Malawian Parliament which emphasize on the cast of duties “on every person to take all necessary and appropriate measures to protect and manage the environment and to conserve natural resources and promote the sustainable utilization of natural resources” as well as providing the unfettered powers invested in local authorities to issue Environmental Protection Orders to perpetrators of environmental pollution and any act endangering the environment. However, the country is currently not well equipped with the state-of- the-art equipment in her regulatory bodies to measure, monitor and quantify metrologically all possible pollutants. On the hand, some WHO recommendations like banning smoking in public places and indoors to prevent passive smoking phenomenon are yet to be upheld although the indicators of hygiene and sanitation are improving towards reaching the Millennium Developing Goals (MDGs)1.
. The office of the Director General is established under section 9 of the EMA. The duties of the Director include, inter alia, carrying out the duties specified by the Act and “the implementation of policies relating to the protection, management, of the environment and the conservation and sustainable utilization of resources that the Minister may determine”.
 . Section 63 criminalizes the inclusion of false information in IEA reports with the knowledge that such information is false. Any person convicted under the section can be jailed for 2 years or fined K200, 000.00 ($1,500).
 . The Environmental Management Act (EMA).