Malawi, a largely agricultural country, is making efforts to overcome decades of underdevelopment, corruption and the impact of an HIV-Aids problem, which claims the lives of tens of thousands every year.
A programme to tackle HIV-Aids was launched in 2004, with the then-President Bakili Muluzi revealing that his brother had died from the disease.
Malawi is one of the world’s worst-hit by HIV-Aids and home to more than one million children orphaned by the disease.
For the first 30 years of independence Malawi was run by an authoritarian and quixotic President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, but democratic institutions have taken a firm hold since he relinquished power in the mid-1990s.
Most Malawians rely on subsistence farming, but the food supply situation is precarious because of the climate.
In recent years the country has achieved economic growth.
- The Republic of Malawi
- Capital: Lilongwe
- Population 15.9 million
- Area 118,484 sq km (45,747 sq miles)
- Major languages English, Chichewa (both official)
- Major religions Christianity, Islam
- Life expectancy 55 years (men), 55 years (women)
- Currency Malawi kwacha