Cities join to bring aid to the poor of Malawi

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THE age-old rivalry between Scotland’s largest cities has been brushed aside as Glasgow and Edinburgh joined forces yesterday to forge stronger links with one of Africa’s poorest states.

The Lord Provosts of both cities said they aimed to follow in the footsteps of Scots explorer David Livingstone by creating a partnership to aid Malawi, which ranks as the seventh poorest state in the world.

Lord Provost, Liz Cameron from Glasgow and the capital’s Lord Provost, Lesley Hinds, have said they are determined to work together on a range of issues, bringing to an end the traditional rivalry often enjoyed by their male predecessors.

Both provosts said yesterday they would join forces to persuade individuals and organisations to become involved in helping their counterparts in the southern African state.

They launched the Scotland Malawi Partnership with the support of Ibrahim Milazi, the High Commissioner of Malawi, along with representatives from Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities, the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).

Mrs Cameron said: "Scots have supported, encouraged and co-operated with the people of Malawi at every step of the development of their nation, which became independent in 1964.

"However, the need for support, encouragement and co-operation is not past. The needs of the people of Malawi are sadly many and great."

She added: "The challenge will be to mobilise and focus not just our fellow Scots, but also the broader international community to the situation in Malawi.

For three decades the destiny of Malawi was tied to the whims of President-for-Life Kamuzu Banda who enjoyed being surrounded by dancing women and who encouraged people to betray relatives who criticised his rule.

In the mid-1990s Banda buckled under popular pressure to hold elections, and lost - finally giving Malawians a taste for multiparty democracy.

The 12 million population remains threatened by natural disasters and Banda’s successor, President Bakili Muluzi has been accused of corruption.

Life expectancy stands at just 37 years for men and 38 years for women. Babies born today have a life expectancy of just 29 years and tens of thousands of Malawians die from HIV/Aids each year.

After years of silence, the authorities have finally acknowledged a problem, when earlier this year, President Muluzi revealed that his brother had died from the disease.

Lord Provost Hinds stressed that many Scots organisations are already involved in alleviating the humanitarian disaster engulfing Malawi.

She said: "For this initiative to be a success, it is vital that the people of Malawi join us in full partnership," and added: "We will be listening to their views and recommendations on what benefits and challenges they see as priorities, and acting upon them. In this way we hope to provide them with the opportunity to improve the quality of their lives."

Patrick Grady, SCIAF’s Campaigns Officer welcomed the initiative but called on the West to cancel the huge burden of debt on developing nations.

He added: "We welcome this initiative to create stronger links between Scotland and Malawi and to build on the historical bond we already have.

"Sharing information and resources is important. It is also imperative that we work to tackle the structural issues that condemn people to poverty.

"Our Government has a responsibility not just to Malawi but to the rest of the developing world, to cancel debt and to increase the overseas aid budget."

Both provosts promised not be "desk bound" in their bid to aid Malawi. Lord Provost Cameron will lead a team of workers in a visit to Malawi’s second city of Blantyre in August, named after David Livingstone’s home town in Lanarkshire.