Mzuzu is located in the northern region of Malawi and has about 220,000 inhabitants. However, about 1.7 million more people live in the rural outskirts, and this number continues to grow.
The surrounding region is predominantly agricultural, with tea, rubber and coffee plantations. In the city itself, there is a substantial timber and manufacturing industry, as well as a large informal sector. Poverty is a reality for many families in the region. They often struggle to feed their children and have limited access to sanitation, education and health care.
Since 2002, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Mzuzu.
As in other parts of Malawi, the majority of people in and around the city of Mzuzu live in poverty. This is often linked to problems such as malnutrition and a lack of access to health care services and clean drinking water.
Many children have weakened immune systems due to malnutrition. Furthermore, they develop diarrhoea and abdominal pain when drinking unclean water from local wells. In rural areas, children often have to walk long distances to school. If their health is poor, they are unable to do so and therefore often remain without schooling. HIV/AIDS is also a problem, as 1 in 10 people are infected with the virus, against which many cannot protect themselves properly.
Mzuzu is one of the fastest-growing cities in Malawi. The difficult living conditions in the countryside drive many families to try their luck in the city.However, in Mzuzu, adequate infrastructure such as running water and sewerage, and social services such as schools and hospitals, are also lacking. The city cannot sustain the influx of people, and up to 60% of the local population are estimated to live in informal settlements. These people do not have proper housing, access to running water or healthcare. Many people, including children, tend to be employed in the informal sector. Hence, school attendance is low.