What We Are Doing

Malawi hosts Race for Survival along with the Mulanje Porters’ Race 14 Jul 2015

Written by Luzayo Nyirongo, Strategic Communications Coordinator with editing by Nomsa Taulo, Campaigns and Communications Officer

This year’s Race for Survival saw Save the Children’s global event find its way to the scenic, Likhubula Valley in Mulanje District, towered over by Malawi’s breathtaking, Mulanje Mountain. The event partnered with the annual Mount Mulanje Porters’ Race, the renowned Lake of Stars festival and NBS Bank as the main sponsor – as well as other partners. With the participants hailing from different backgrounds the event was sure to amass significant publicity – bringing together over 2500 people, plus generating national spotlight thanks to the media present.

Speaking during the event, Save the Children’s Director for Health, David Melody said the relay race held alongside a tough event like the Porters’ race symbolised the many different challenges children face when they are growing up. “Due to a high myriad of these challenges that range from high mortality rate and poor nutrition among others, growing up for most of these children means a race for survival which should not be the case,” stated Melody.

Melody pointed out that Malawi has achieved substantial reductions in child mortality rates in recent years, from 244 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 68 per 1,000 in 2013.

Save the Children was excited with the Mulanje Mountain Porters’ Race, particularly in terms of the international outreach the event brought the Race for Survival. The Porters’ Race itself was being held for the 19th year. The event, which is internationally recognised, is organised by the Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT) and aims at promoting Malawi’s tourism and environmental sector. For Save the Children, this presented a great opportunity and platform for us to campaign for child survival in Malawi under the EVERY ONE Campaign.

The crosscutting nature of the event drew guests from different government departments such as the guest of honour, the Minister of Information and Tourism, Honourable Kondwani Nankhumwa, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Tourism, Justin Saidi, the Director of Tourism – along with other staff from the Ministry, the Deputy Chairperson of the Parliamentary Health Committee, M.P. Victor Musowa and the District Commissioner for Mulanje. It also brought together traditional leaders, representatives from the partner organisations, teachers from the participating schools, and most importantly for us – the children.

Deputy Chairperson for the Parliamentary Health Committee, Victor Musowa said, “It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that children survive the first five years of their lives.” He went on to note that many newborns and children under-five keep dying due to preventable causes.

“We must all take time to think of what role we can play to ensure that our children survive their first years. Being a health committee, we are always happy when we partner with organisations to save the lives of children. I would like therefore to commend the remarkable work that Save the Children is doing in this area,” said Musowa.

Musowa indicated that there was need for policy makers and other stakeholders to put deliberate policies and innovations that will go a long way in making lasting change in the lives of children.

The event was quite the melting pot, but harmoniously managed to fit its elements together. Save the Children was as visible as could be ­– with hundreds of people wearing white t-shirts branded with the Race for Survival and EVERY ONE Campaign logo’s and the main stage also plastered with our emblems. Although the children’s relay was only a fraction of the grueling 25km Porters’ Race, it still captured the attention of the crowd for not only the intensity with which the children ran, but also because of the significance of the campaign. The winner for the boys’ category was Abu from Pasani Primary and for the girls category was Dyna from Nansato Primary School.

Race for Survival is a platform where children speak for themselves and bring critical issues to a national forefront. When asked to voice his opinion about the cause, 13-year-old Abel from Pasani Primary school pleaded to the government by saying, “under-five children should be prevented from dying,” and added, “I ask that you stock up hospitals that are lacking medicine.”

Although on the day, the government responded with enthusiasm in its continued efforts towards championing for child survival – the event went beyond maintaining the government’s commitment, it sought to call the entire nation to take action. With national coverage from just about all media outlets imaginable, the campaign is hoping just that.

The day’s events witnessed and proved that people of different specialties can truly come together and raise awareness for a common cause. It is a cause familiar to us all because as Malawi, we all have a role to play in adding value to the lives of children including newborns. In his closing remarks, David Melody reminded the crowd that we are all accountable to both child and newborn health outcomes. He compellingly ended his speech by saying, “it is therefore EVERY ONE’s responsibility to play their rightful role so that growing up should not be a race for survival!”