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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 May 2006, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Building a better future in Malawi
Patricia Ferguson, Scotland's minister responsible for international development, has travelled to Malawi to see how relief and aid is helping the African nation.

A year ago last May, First Minister Jack McConnell visited Malawi to re-energise the links between out two countries - a historic bond that stretches back to Dr David Livingstone.

Malawi's economic planning and development minister David Faiti and Patricia Ferguson
Patricia Ferguson with Economic Planning and Development Minister David Faiti

Since that visit, much work has been done to cement the new relationship. In November last year, the first minister and President Mutharika signed a co-agreement between our two countries.

Over the coming years, we will work together to strengthen Malawi's education and health systems, its civic governance and civil society and we will explore ways we can help grow a sustainable economy in a country who's GDP is around the same size as Falkirk's.

One of the main purposes of my trip is to meet with the government of Malawi to review the progress already made on the agreement, and agree the implementation of the next phase.

I will also be seeing for myself the many challenges facing Malawi's development. Diseases such as malaria, TB and HIV/Aids are a constant threat to the 12 million population.

'Daily struggle'

It is a daily struggle to ensure that this landlocked country can provide enough food each year for its people, particularly when the rains are poor.

And while Malawi's young democracy is growing stronger each year, there is still much advice and support we can offer both government and civil society.

During my visit, I will meet with many of the Scots who are already making a difference in Malawi.

Patricia Ferguson in Malawi
The minister takes time out during her visit

I will visit a school to see the Mary's Meals programme in action.

This is run by Scottish International Relief and provides thousands of children with free school meals every day - for many this will be their only meal.

I hope to meet some of the Scottish medical staff who give up their annual holidays to travel to Malawi to work.

In the last year these doctors and midwives have trained 150 Malawi nurses and midwives in life saving techniques - crucial in a country which has one of the world's worst maternal and neo-natal death rates.

And I will visit the Bandawe Mission to pay my respects to the Scottish missionaries buried there.

More than 100 years ago those brave men and women died while working in Malawi, and their sacrifice is a constant reminder of the strong lasting bond between our two countries.

My week promises to be a busy one, and will cement even further the relationship between our two countries. Malawi and Scotland may be thousands of miles apart but together we can build a better future.

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