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QUICK FACTS

Capitol city: Lilongwe

Largest city: Blantyre

Population: 13,013,926, 87% living in rural areas.

Religion: 76% Christian, 15% Muslim, 8% traditional religions

Language: English (official), Chichewa (national), various other Bantu languages

Government: Multiparty democracy with elected president since 1995

Climate: Varies with the elevation. Hot and humid in the Shire Valley, more temperate in the highlands.

Rainy season: November to April.

Annual rainfall: Averages about 2,300 mm (about 90 in) in the highlands and about 800 mm (about 30 in) in the lowlands.

Wildlife: Elephants, rhinoceroses, giraffes, zebras, monkeys, and several varieties of antelope. Hippopotamuses inhabit the lake shores.

Attractions: Lake Malawi, 8 wildlife/game reserves, mountain biking, trekking, historical interest.

Newspapers: The Daily Times from Blantyre is the most widely read.

Malawi is bounded on the north by Tanzania, on the east by Lake Malawi (Lake Nyasa), on the southeast and south by Mozambique, and on the west by Zambia. A long and narrow country, Malawi's total area is 45,747 square miles, approximately the size of Pennsylvania.

Malawi's major geographical features include Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, and Mount Mulanje, the highest peak in central Africa at 3,002 meters. Lake Malawi may contain more endemic species of fish than any other lake in the world, and was declared a World Heritage site in 1984.

An impoverished country with high population density and few natural resources, Malawi's GDP is $2.172 billion (compare to $13.22 trillion USA GDP). Average individual income is $160/year, with 54% of the population working in farming, fishing, and forestry. Many Malawians also work as migrant laborers in other parts of Africa.

THE AIDS CRISIS

Malawi faces one of the worst AIDS epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently an estimated 14% of Malawiansˇover a million peopleˇare living with AIDS, with 84,000 deaths reported in 2003 and 78,000 deaths estimated in 2005. The total population life expectancy is only 41.7 years, skewed by the high prevalence of AIDS.

Children have been deeply affected by AIDS as well, with an estimated 91,000 children living with AIDS and 550,000 children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS.