Living on a Dollar a Day in Malawi
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than half of its population living on less than $1 a day. But the people of Malawi may have reason to celebrate. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have announced that 90 percent of the country's debt will be forgiven.
In spite of that good news, it will still be some time before Malawian families, like the Phiris, can relax their strict budgets.
In Central Malawi, the Phiri family begins its day at 4:30 a.m. — without breakfast.
In a maize field, a 20-minute walk from their house in Lifidzi, they use a handmade hoe to till the overworked soil. The soil is eroded so the Phiri family spent $15 on a bag of fertilizer that they hope will last them the year. Friends and family helped the Phiris purchase the fertilizer. Such generosity is not uncommon among Malawians. For example, even if it means going without food, neighbors will buy each other medicine for common diseases such as AIDS and malaria.
Running out of food is common in Malawi. Crops often fail when rains don't come. A few months earlier, the Philis had nothing to eat but unripe mangoes, which made the family feel sick. Every year for the past three years, starving people in Malawi's dry season have resorted to eating water lily tubers and even poisonous plant roots.
The Phiris have aspirations beyond scrimping and surviving, especially the daughter, Martha. She wants to be a reporter, or newsreader as they're called in Malawi. But Martha knows that her family will probably never have the money to send her for the training to be a reporter, let alone anything else.
In the evening, the family splurges 35 cents on a fish dinner to honor a guest. They spent a total $1.25 on this day. But the day's income was only 94 cents, including the 63 cents they received from relatives to help them out.
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