A Celebration of Scotland – Malawi Youth Links
Progression towards an International Scotland
Janine Ewen, MSc Health Improvement/Health Promotion
MSP Humza Yousaf , International Development Minister for the Scottish Government and Janine Ewen, Policy Development Member for First Aid Africa and Volunteer Development for St. Andrew’s First Aid.
On the eve of the 7th of November a celebration event took place at the Scottish Parliament to acknowledge the existing relationship between Malawi and Scotland. The evening was organised by the Scotland Malawi Partnership. The relationship exists through the help of volunteers and thanks to the superb work of Dr David Livingstone many years ago, who must be mentioned in this article. Determined Scots have worked with the people of Malawi for 150 years, in doing so they’ve helped them to develop and maintain fundamental services for a rightful and adequate standard of living. These rights include things that we all take for granted; such as basic education and health care.
Around 200 people attended what was an insightful and inspiring event; they included MSPs, young Scots and Malawians, and youth organisations. Many asked questions and the room was filled with energy from those organisations who have worked and built fantastic opportunities in the developing world, in particular Malawi. The panel, consisting of young politicians, those from Malawi and MSPS was chaired by, Sam Abraham, who has worked extensively to build the charity First Aid Africa. Sam helped to turn the night into an opportunity to discuss and the being undertaken by the Scottish Government and to network with others present.
On the same day Humza Yousaf, International Development Minister for the Scottish Government, announced £1.2m in funding to projects aimed at helping poor people in Malawi International. Humza is encouraging invitations from Scottish-based organisations to bid for the money. From a health and wellbeing perspective, combating global challenges is so much more than finding the right people, but also developing the right way of working. The Scottish Government is working well to develop support and build alliances. As long as aid is monitored and investments go towards sustainable projects, The Scottish Government will be helping to secure a better future for people in Africa. There is always room for improvement and I believe that, doing the “good” can be done better in terms of giving aid and providing humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian aid organisations that touch down on war or disaster – ravaged countries, are helping with the best of intentions, driven by the eagerness to help in anyway. The main problem with the aid from these organisations is that the outcomes of its impact are “invisible” to us, because nothing sustainable in the longer term is produced - no built water delivery systems, housing that will not last, and poor infrastructure for program delivery, but the aid is used by many in the developing world. It is used mainly to keep people alive through medical treatment. First Aid Africa is a great example of a rural healthcare project teaching overseas sustainable First Aid, standing by strong principles that First Aid should never be about the resources you don't have around you, but the ones you do, encouraging use of sanitary towels and natural resources An effective way of combating the huge number of minor and major injuries now overtaking the huge rates of tropical diseases. In many ways, the NGO community has created an “alternate economy”, and much of the money is spent on the delivery of emergency services, which are also needed. The emergency aid acts as a means of rapid assistance to those in immediate disastrous environments to relieve suffering; this will help to answer the question of those who ask, “Where did all the money go? The very term "humanitarian" denotes caring and compassion. It's intrinsic to our nature that many of us will want to help those less fortunate this is why organisations applying for the 1.2 m fund are crucial for further enhancement of the developing world countries. These organisations are heavily involved in supporting education and community development both of which can help to improve long term prospects for all.
No other investment has such a lasting effect as education. For most of Africa's children, education represents the only way out of a life of entrenched poverty. Community development has its role in building confidence, cohesiveness and community resilience. Inequalities exist in Africa, just as much as they exist in the UK. This needs to be remembered, particularly by, Justine Greening, International Development Secretary for the UK Government, who has recently cut the financial aid to India in 2015. Despite a “booming” economy, this still leaves those in poverty, in poverty and the rich, very rich. The UK government should be complemented for ring-fencing the foreign aid budget; however, many charities are understandably worried as India is home to a third of the world's extreme poor. Despite the strain on resources polling consistently shows that the public would rather governments cut aid budgets rather than domestic ones, so it's fantastic that the Scottish Government haven’t cut their commitment to Malawi. It is exciting to see how the funding will develop over the next few years. I believe it will make a huge difference.
Why does Scotland play such a recognised role in International Development? The Scottish Government's International Development Policy sees Scotland's place in the world as that of a small nation, committed to addressing the challenges faced by the world. The government gives a sense of strong unity in combating the troubles faced by other countries, and hopes to actively engage with this global agenda. Most of all the policy hopes to build upon both the relationships that exist between Scotland and the developing world.
In 2004, Malawi’s health system was described as ‘dangerously close to collapse’ due to inequitable distribution of health workers and an inappropriate mix of different skills. The Malawian Ministry of Health embarked on a six-year plan to revive it, with funds from the UK Department for International Development. I believe with Scotland’s close links we can play a huge a role in protecting these vital systems in order for the people of Malawi to maintain healthy lives. Out with health care, education has also been recognised as a fundamental right that needs continued support on. This year 50,000 books went to schoolchildren in the Eastern Cape of South Africa – all part of the international celebrations to mark Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday.
Malawi has a lot to offer. The name Malawi means ‘reflected light of bright haze’, a most apt description of this country whose area is one fifth covered by water. Besides the magnificent Lake, Malawi has five National Parks, beautiful scenery and sunshine all year round. It is a great country for anyone to go and embrace its beauty and culture. The Scottish Government also supports projects in Tanzania, Zambia and Rwanda within Africa and in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in South Asia.
The Scottish Government has a lot to be proud of.