In the past few weeks there have been reports in the media of crop failures in Malawi.
John has just arrived in Malawi and travelled up from Lilongwe to Mzuzu. It appears there are a number of complex issues besides the very late rains which continued longer than usual. In the central region the crop yields are down between 50% and 25%. Much of the crop is standing ready for harvesting and the estimate looks right as many fields will produce very low yields particularly if the farmer or family could not afford fertilizer or planted at the wrong time ( for the odd rain pattern this year) The maize which has been harvested is left on the field to dry and ripen. However the recent heavy late rains have damaged the drying cobs
In the northern region where the maize is harvested later the crops are at a critical stage .When the rains were needed to swell the cobs before harvesting the weather was dry and the cobs did not fully mature. Further north in the Livingstonia synod area the rains have been good and a good crop expected.
However, on visiting Ekwendeni hospital and speaking with staff, the wards are packed. In the children’s ward, there are often 3 to a bed at night- mostly malaria and nutrition issues. The staff say the current position is the worst they have seen for many years, and the shortage of food is becoming a worrying factor. Many families are currently down to 2 small meals a day of meagre rations.
Heavy recent flooding in the Mzuzu area has affected many families and the CCAP and others have been involved in a relief exercise in providing hot food, blankets and clothing. The Livingstonia hospital and the mission station on the Livingstonia plateau are inaccessible due to rain damage and government ‘construction work’ on the Gorodi road and landslips on the back road.
Container 100 unloaded in wall to wall sunshine – otherwise there has been almost continuous rain since John arrived..
John Challis was present at Ekwendeni Hospital today as the 100th Raven Trust container arrived to be unloaded. It had set off from Strachur just under two months ago and was welcomed with great excitement as John explained the significance of this particular container to those around him. Just 58 days door to door!
The Raven Trust would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who donated the goods which went to fill the container, all those who gifted the money to send the container, all those who helped to load and to send FCL 100 safely on its way and all those in Malawi who unloaded and helped to distribute its contents.
Smileawi was set up as a Raven Trust project in October 2012 after Nigel and Vicky Milne, two dentists from Dunoon , went to Malawi with John Challis to assess the dental services available in northern Malawi, accompanied by Clyde, a teddy bear who helped to break the ice with many of their younger patients.
Since that first visit, Nigel and Vicky have returned to Malawi every year with a steadily growing team of dentists and dental nurses (though Clyde has retired in favour of Flossie!) They have raised funds to take their team out to Malawi and support them while there, received donated goods ranging from full dental suites and sterilisers to toothbrushes and bought more, much needed, dental equipment and supplies, including mobile dental chairs for outlying clinics and dental anaesthetic of which there is a great shortage in Malawi.
Smileawi has also set up prevention programmes in schools and gathers together dental therapists and assistants every year in a conference to discuss dental services and ways to improve this, offer training and distribute dental supplies.
Smileawi has now become a Registered Scottish Charity in its own right and we would like to congratulate Flossie, Nigel, Vicky and the rest of the team on passing this milestone. We wish them all the best with their future work which will still be in close association with the Raven Trust.
On a wet and windy 1st April, just after dawn, MSC Ishyka set off down the Clyde from Greenock carrying FCL 102 on the first leg of its sea voyage to Beira in Mozambique. From there the container will be carried onward by road to the Malawian Revenue Authority premises in Lilongwe in Malawi and eventually on to Ekwendeni.
The container, which was loaded at Dundee on Saturday 19th March, was delayed on its journey, first by a strike at Grangemouth which caused it to be diverted to Greenock, and then by bad weather which held up MSC Ishyka causing her to be late into Greenock. It will probably reach its destination in June.
Meanwhile FCL 100 has been landed at Beira and will begin its road journey to Malawi soon.
On Wednesday 17 February, the Raven Trust sent out container number 100! This represents a massive 120,000 boxes of all different shapes and sizes. And at today’s value, this has cost a whopping £1.2m. If the containers were parked end to end, they would stretch for almost a mile! And if the boxes were lined up, they would reach from Strachur to Glasgow! The amazing thing is that every single box and every single penny of this has been donated by the general public.
On behalf of the people of Northern Malawi, who are among the poorest people in the world, grateful thanks are due to each and every person who has been part of this effort.
But it is not just the people who have donated goods and money. Thanks are also due to the very many people who have contributed time. Tasks include receiving boxes, sorting and repacking where necessary, labelling, packing the containers, catering for the packing days, driving vans to collect items, processing the lists, preparing the paperwork for international freight and so much more. It is impossible to count the number of different people who have had a hand in making all this possible; but it is certainly many hundreds. Grateful thanks to each of these.
Container number 100 is a landmark occasion. It is also the last container to be sent out from Strachur. But it not the end of the work of the Raven Trust. A depot has been opened in Dundee which means that this work can continue unabated