Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Fuel Crises (written late October)

Cars queuing - you can see the fuel station in the distance

Since I arrived 2 weeks ago and saw vehicles queuing for fuel on my way from the airport, things have gotten increasingly worse. From what I understand, Malawi is short on foreign currency reserves (hence why people are offering to buy USD from me on black market prices almost 50% above the actual exchange rate). This has caused difficulties for Malawi in importing fuel which is coming in to the country less and less frequently. When news of a petrol station having fuel gets out, the station is buzzing with activity within minutes.

People queue down the streets and the station gets quickly packed with fuel-hungry vehicles. Some people wait all day for fuel and go home empty handed. The crisis has caused costs of transport (basic van-taxis that people use as public transport) to rise 50% this past week. Prices of soft drinks have doubled and the price of bread recently went up 16%. Although we all (myself included) are feeling the impact of the crises, as always, the countries’ poor are experiencing the effects most harshly. I may have to call 10 taxis and have my Friday evening plans delayed by an hour or two, but many people can’t even afford salt to eat with their basic meal of Nsima (ground up corn mixed with water) or buy basic commodities such as bread.
Vehicles queuing down the road for fuel

Over dinner on Thursday night with my new fellow-Canadian friend Kate, she remarked on how something ‘felt different’ this week. I agree with her that there is a certain tension in the air as this country’s beautiful and warm people carry an increasingly heavy burden and survival becomes even more difficult. 

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