Harare — President Lazarus Chakwera and his administration came under fire from opposition parties and human rights organizations in Malawi, for a deal allowing 221 young young Malawians to be airlifted on Saturday, November 25, 2023 to work on Israeli farms.
The action comes in the wake of Israel’s U.S.$60 million aid package for Malawi’s economic recovery two weeks ago. Concerns are for the agreement’s secrecy and concerns for the safety of workers in light of Israel’s confrontation with Hamas.
Malawian opposition leader Kondwani Nankhumwa is reported to have questioned why the administration had withheld information about the agreement, finally telling parliament on November 22 that workers would be transferred to an undisclosed nation. In defense of the agreement, the government said that Malawians would be sent to Israel and other nations in order to “fulfill this administration’s commitment to job creation and youth empowerment.”
The government also gave assurances on the security and safety of the workers, saying that they will be given medical insurance and protections against repatriation in addition to working in areas that are “classified as fit and safe.”
The agreement was made in the midst of Malawi’s economic crisis, which is characterised by a 44% currency devaluation and significant cost-cutting measures implemented by Chakwera.
Added to the ailing economy, UNICEF fears that as least 573,000 children in Malawi under five might become malnourished. Acute food insecurity, which is exacerbated by frequent climatic shocks and avoidable disease outbreaks may undo recent successes in decreasing chronic malnutrition. The devastating impact of Tropical Cyclone Freddy in March 2023 is still being felt in Malawi, where 659,000 people – many of them children – are internally displaced. The cholera outbreaks that occurred after the cyclone has thus far claimed 1,759 lives.