Main Menu
Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                             

Republic of Malawi

Landlocked Malawi ranks among the world's most densely populated and least developed countries. The economy is predominately agricultural with about 85% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for more than one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports.

The government faces many challenges including developing a market economy, improving educational facilities, facing up to environmental problems, dealing with the rapidly growing problem of HIV/AIDS, and satisfying foreign donors that fiscal discipline is being tightened.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Malawi

Malawi is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. The incidence of internal trafficking is believed higher than that of transnational trafficking, and practices such as forced labor exist, particularly on tobacco plantations. Children are trafficked primarily within the country for forced labor in agriculture, animal herding, domestic servitude, and to perform forced menial tasks for small businesses. Girls and young women are trafficked internally for forced labor and prostitution at local bars and rest houses. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Malawi.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Malawi’s Vulnerable Shortchanged in Human Trafficking Prevention Efforts

Charity Chimungu Phiri, BLANTYRE, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, 13 May 2020

[access date unavailable]

[accessed 13 May 2020]

Some victims make their own way home --

Modestar* was one of those young Malawian women who had been stranded overseas. She had left her home in Zalewa, a town in Malawi’s southern region for Kurdistan in northern Iraq, some 5,400 miles away, after being promised a well-paying job looking after the elderly.

But the salary she had been promised was slashed in half, and her phone and passport was confiscated upon her arrival. She was forced to work long hours caring for an elderly patient in a private home.

“I was not allowed to go outside of the compound. I worked long hours, at times from 7am to 1am [the next day], without getting paid,” she told IPS.

Eventually she was rescued by Iraqi police who had been tipped off by another woman who had also been in domestic service with Modestar. But the women soon realised they may not be able to return home, as the employment agent refused to return their passports.

Malawi’s rating on human trafficking ‘mistake’

[access date unavailable]

Malawi’s rating as Tier 1 in this year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report is misleading and does not reflect the reality on the ground, officials from the Centre for Social Concern (CFSC) have said.

However, officials from CFSC briefing the press in Lilongwe last week said the Tier 1 classification is a mistake because Malawi has not done much in human trafficking to warrant first position.  Christopher Boyer of CFSC said in the first place Malawi has no anti-trafficking legislation in place and neither does it have shelters for trafficked victims.  Boyer also criticized the report for commending the Malawi government for recruiting 400 child protection officers who work in all the districts and recognizing victims of trafficking because these officers are not actually doing the work.

Child Prostitution worsens in Cities

Pilirani Semu-Banda, Nation Online, Jun 04, 05

[accessed 17 April 2012]

She said for Blantyre, the children are picked from their parental homes in Zomba, Thyolo, Nsanje and Chiradzulu after brothel owners pay some money to parents of the children.  “They give the parents K1,000 and tell them that the children will be employed in restaurants,” said Mtisunge.


*** ARCHIVES ***

First-person: Fighting human trafficking in Malawi

UN News | Updated: 16 November 2020

[accessed 16 November 2020]

They were sisters, and just 14 and 16. I met them and discovered they'd been trafficked from Malawi to South Africa and forced to work as prostitutes. They were in a terrible state, both physically and mentally.

I managed to arrange their return to Malawi. Today, one of the sisters is working as an accountant, the other as a head teacher at a primary school.

Shining a light on a hidden crime -- There are several cases I've been involved in, which I'm proud of. These include the rescue of Malawian victims of labour exploitation from Kuwait and Iraq and their safe return home and the rescue of men from Nepal who had been trafficked to Malawi. And there are the recent rescues of young victims of forced marriages and prostitution following my mentoring this summer.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Malawi

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 15 June 2021]


The government did not effectively enforce applicable laws, and forced labor occurred during the year, especially in agriculture (predominantly the tobacco industry), goat and cattle herding, and brickmaking. Child forced labor also occurred (see section 7.c.). Under the tenancy system, estate owners recruit farmers from distant districts to grow tobacco for them on their estates.

Employers loan the tenant farmers money to buy agricultural inputs during the growing season. If they are unable to repay the loans, they fall into situations of debt bondage.


Child labor, including the worst forms of child labor, remained a serious and widespread problem. The 2015 National Child Labor Survey found 38 percent of children ages five to 17 were involved in child labor. Child labor was most prevalent in agriculture, especially tea, tobacco and livestock herding, brickmaking and construction, and domestic service. Forced child labor also occurred, particularly in agriculture, construction, forced begging and street work, use in illicit activities, and commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children). Children often worked 12-hour days, frequently for little or no pay. Many boys worked as vendors, and young girls in urban areas often worked outside their families as domestic servants, receiving low or no wages.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 8 July 2020]


The enforcement of labor laws is weak, and employees are often paid extremely low wages, despite minimum-wage laws. Child labor is a persistent problem, particularly on tobacco estates. In October 2019, the British law firm Leigh Day announced a class-action lawsuit against British American Tobacco on behalf of 2,000 Malawian farmers over forced labor and child labor practices. Shortly thereafter, the United States announced that it would suspend imports of Malawian tobacco due to evidence of forced labor.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 18 April 2019]

[accessed 3 May 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 640]

Most human trafficking of children for labor in Malawi is internal. (13; 20) Boys in particular are trafficked from southern Malawi to work on tobacco farms in Malawi’s northern and central regions; they are also forced to work as cattle herders and in the brickmaking industry. (13; 20; 28) Children also are trafficked from Malawi to other countries, including Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. (23; 28; 29) Children who are trafficked may be charged for their clothing, food, housing, and transport. They may also be forced to work in debt bondage because of these charges and be unable to return home or support themselves. (20; 30)

Girls from rural areas are sometimes provided clothing and lodging from brothel owners. After they have left home, they are coerced to engage in commercial sexual exploitation to pay off their debts. (13; 20; 28) Girls who work in rest houses or bars are often coerced to engage in commercial sexual exploitation in exchange for room and board. (31; 1).

Malawi: Government Intensifies Campaign Against Child Labour

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Blantyre, 30 November 2007

[accessed 9 March 2015]

POVERTY - While recognising the efforts by government and its development partners to combat human trafficking and child labour, Banda said, "Increasing the number of child protection officers without dealing with what drives thousands of our children into exploitative labour will not solve the problem. These children are compelled to work in estates because of poverty and, to a large extent, because they either have one or no parent at all." - htpv

Human trafficking syndicate exposed

Deborah Nyangulu, Daily Times, 26 October 2007 – Source:

[accessed 19 February 2011]

An intricate system of human trafficking exists in the country involving Malawians and Nigerians who traffic mainly women and children to as far as Europe.

Most of the victims of trafficking in Malawi, Nikolovska said, are sexually exploited in Johannesburg and women could be sold for as little as R650 (K13,800) as wives to South African men and for R1,000 (K21,234) in brothels at Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng.

NGOs Work To Eradicate Human Trafficking, Help Victims

U.S. Department of State, Washington DC, June 12, 2007

[accessed 19 February 2011]

U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations around the world are working to prevent human trafficking, provide resources to victims and arrest and prosecute child-sex offenders. From Africa to Europe to Asia, initiatives are raising worldwide awareness of the illegal practice of human trafficking.

PROVIDING RESOURCES FOR VICTIMS - In Malawi, police officers specially trained to recognize child victims of exploitation, including trafficking, are raising community awareness and helping grassroots organizations provide reintegration assistance for victims. Nearly 400 child protection officers in the country’s 27 local government districts are serving a critical role by monitoring communities for signs of trafficking, and they identify about half of the reported trafficking cases in Malawi.

Mozambican gets 6 years for human trafficking

[accessed 3 February 2015]

Sauka in an interview yesterday said Katundu entered the country on October 1 accompanied by a boy aged 17 whom he convinced that he would be paid handsomely after helping him carry some clothes he was going to buy in Zomba.  “But his going to Zomba was in search of a human market.

Last month, police in Zomba arrested three people suspected to have removed private parts of a boy in the district. Their motive has not been established yet but they are currently on remand at the Zomba Maximum Prison awaiting trial.

Human trafficking is a reality in Malawi

South African Migration Project SAMP, Queen's University (Canada), Daily Times, 2006-08-25

[accessed 19 February 2011]

In order to combat the multifaceted problem of human trafficking, interventions must be multi-disciplinary and multi sectoral. They must among others include; the legal sector -implementing all international human rights conventions and treaties, developing regional and bilateral MOU’s with neighbouring countries on prevention and detection of trafficking, strengthening the national legal framework through the development of specific anti-trafficking laws and regulations, and strengthening law enforcement through active prosecution of trafficking offenders.

Also the social welfare and health sector -improving access to high quality and appropriate social and protection services for trafficking victims, providing health services to those infected with diseases etc; community based initiatives - supporting small income-generating projects in village communities; gender mainstreaming- raising awareness about gender sensitivity within the court systems, and among police and other law enforcement officials, as well as raising awareness on the issues throughout the general public;

And the education sector - increasing awareness about human trafficking by providing education for all. Improving the existing educational systems and ensure vocational and technical education structures and mechanisms accessible to out of school youth. Provide relevant education and training for labour markets, particularly to youth in areas of high mobility and/or vulnerable groups; the migration sector - strengthening cross-border initiatives, enhancing the number and quality of repatriation programmes, improving situation of trafficked victims in receiving country (avoiding detention and expulsion of victims), focusing on key factors which leads to the migration to neighbouring countries; and the labour sector - improving job opportunities and strengthening national labour laws. All these must be included to combat the multifaceted problem of human trafficking.

New NGO formed to combat human trafficking

South African Migration Project SAMP, Queen's University (Canada), Daily Times, 2006-07-04

[accessed 19 February 2011]

A new NGO named Centre for the Protection of Trafficked Persons (Ceptrap) has been formed in the country to combat human and child trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Reports of human trafficking have been rife in the country with various people using all kinds of tricks to abduct women. Trafficked people are usually lured with offers of jobs outside the country.

Outrage over lenient fine for trafficking boys

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 24 Aug 2005

[accessed 9 March 2015]

A Kwacha 24,000 (US $200) fine imposed on a man caught trying to smuggle children across the border into Zambia is causing outrage in Malawi.  The Zambian national, named as Masautso Banda, was arrested last Friday as he attempted to cross the border with 15 children in tow.  He was convicted and sentenced on Saturday for trying to traffic the boys, aged between nine to 15 years, but the fine imposed has been described as a slap on the wrist.

An African cleansing rite that now can kill

Sharon LaFraniere, The New York Times, Mchinji, May 12, 2005

[accessed 13 February 2019]

But they hunted her down, she said, and insisted that if she refused to exorcise her dead husband's spirit, she would be blamed every time a villager died. So she put her two small children to bed and then forced herself to have sex with James's cousin.

Seduction, Sale & Slavery: Trafficking In Women & Children For Sexual Exploitation In Southern Africa [PDF]

Jonathan Martens, Maciej ‘Mac’ Pieczkowski, & Bernadette van Vuuren-Smyth, Pretoria SA, International Organization for Migration IOM, May 2003

[accessed 23 April 2012]

[accessed 3 May 2020]

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - The major findings may be summarized as follows:

Mozambican victims include both girls and young women between the ages of 14 and 24. They are offered jobs as waitresses or sex workers in Johannesburg, and pay their traffickers ZAR 500 to smuggle them across the border in minibus taxis either at Komatipoort or Ponta do Ouro. They stay in transit houses along South Africa’s border with Mozambique and Swaziland for one night where they are sexually assaulted as an initiation for the sex work that awaits them. Once in Johannesburg, some are sold to brothels in the Central Business District (CBD) for ZAR 1000. Others are sold as slaves on private order for ZAR 550, or shopped around to mineworkers on the West Rand as ‘wives’ for ZAR 650. An estimated 1000 Mozambican victims are recruited, transported, and exploited in this way every year, earning traffickers approximately ZAR 1 million annually.

South Africa regional centre for human trafficking

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 23 June 2004

[accessed 9 March 2015]

Malawian women are targeted by trafficking groups because they do not require a visa to enter the United Kingdom. Initial recruitment takes place through Malawian businesswomen, who are linked to the smuggling syndicates. Young women are lured by promises of job opportunities in Europe.  Upon arrival, as the IOM discovered in the Netherlands, the women are sold to brothel owners for $10,000, and told they must work as prostitutes to pay off their debts. "The initiation process involves a ritual used to threaten the women," Martens said. They are asked for underwear, hair or nail clippings and threatened with death by magic if they do not cooperate. The IOM discovered that some brothels even brand or tattoo the women.

Human Trafficking Stretches Across the Region

Moyiga Nduru, Benoni SA, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, June 23, 2004

[accessed 19 February 2011]

[accessed 22 September 2016]

According to the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, as many as 500 organised crime groups operate in South Africa. These include Nigerian gangs who operate mainly in Malawi, Zambia and South Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA: Initiative to fight human trafficking to be launched

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 18 Jun 2004

[accessed 9 March 2015]

South Africa is a country of origin, destination and transit for victims, who are trafficked primarily for purposes of prostitution and forced labour. Refugees from neighbouring African countries, children from Lesotho, women and girls from Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Senegal, Taiwan, Russia, Thailand, Latvia and Romania are all trafficked into South Africa.

Social And Cultural Life

Centre For Social Concern, Kanengo, Lilongwe, Malawi -- Malawi Press Review, June 2004

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 8 September 2011]

[scroll down]

SOCIAL AND CULTURAL LIFE - Reports on social and cultural life also revealed efforts that are being taken by Nankungwis or Ngalibas, the country's custodians of culture in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It is now common knowledge that some cultural practices such as chokolo, wife inheritance are not worth keeping and practicing in light of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Nankungwis who are responsible for guiding young people through initiation rites are better placed to disseminate information on how the disease is spread as well as its consequences.

The practice of marrying girls at a tender age has been blamed for the rise in maternal death in the country. This practice has a negative effect on the health of young girls who end up with various health implications for starting child bearing at a tender age. All the more, the practice has a negative bearing on the development of the country, as young girls do not get a chance to finish their education and contribute positively to the development of the country.

Reports have also expressed concern that Malawian women and girls are increasingly becoming victims of human trafficking to South Africa and other border districts of Malawi. This is a sad development hence the need for human rights bodies and government to put into place measures that would end the practice.

The Smoking Business - Tobacco Workers in Malawi [PDF]

Liv Torres (ed.), Fafo-report 339, Fafo Institute for Applied Social Science 2000

ISBN 82-7422-317-9  ISSN 0801-6143

[accessed 19 February 2011]

[accessed 3 May 2020]

Malawi is generally regarded as one of the countries in the region with the highest incidence of child labour. Child labour in Malawi is also to a large extent explained by poverty, lack of resources, especially educational, etc as well as poor institutional and reulatory settings. Poverty and economic necessity exert major pressures on families to make use as early as possible of the time and labour of children to assist family survival, often at the expense of schooling.

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Major destination for traffickers in women and children

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 23 April 2004

[accessed 19 February 2011]

"Sexual exploitation - in particular, prostitution - is the most widely documented form of exploitation for women and children trafficked within and from Africa," said the report. In certain instances it has been "exacerbated also by a demand from foreigners", such as in holiday resorts in Malawi, where children are reported to be sexually exploited by European tourists, or sent to Europe as sex slaves. - htcp

Committee on the Rights of the Child - Reports by States

29th session, Geneva, 14 January to 1 February 2002

[accessed 8 July 2013]

[scroll down]

MALAWI (INITIAL REPORT) - The Committee emphasized the problem of kidnapping and trafficking in children for slave labour and prostitution. The Malawi Government was recommended to take measures to protect children before the problem increase and bi-lateral agreements were stressed as a measure to deal with the specific area of concern.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1 February 2002

[accessed 19 February 2011]

[63] The Committee is also concerned at information on alleged instances of trafficking in children and at the possible use of inter-country adoption for the purpose of trafficking.


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 10 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The law does not prohibit trafficking in persons specifically, and trafficking was a problem. Although the extent of human trafficking was undocumented, the government made efforts to combat trafficking and used existing laws to prosecute cases of child trafficking for agricultural labor exploitation. The penal code contains several provisions relating to prostitution and indecency that could be used to prosecute traffickers. Since 2001, seven cases involving trafficking in persons have been prosecuted. On September 24, two citizens and a foreigner were sentenced to seven years' imprisonment with hard labor for kidnapping. The three men were arrested in September while attempting to smuggle five young boys across the border into Zambia to work on tobacco estates. Other convicted child traffickers were required to pay fines.

The country is a source and transit point for women and children trafficked for sexual purposes locally and to brothels abroad, particularly in South Africa. Victims trafficked to South Africa were typically between 14 and 24 years old, and were recruited with offers of marriage, study, or employment. According to the International Organization for Migration, sex tourists, primarily from Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, lured children into sexual relationships with them while in the country. Poverty and low educational levels contributed to such exploitation. Traffickers involved in land border trafficking to South Africa were typically long‑distance truck drivers and local businesswomen.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 19 February 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Children work in crop production on tea estates and on commercial tobacco farms, where the incidence of working children has traditionally been high.  Bonded labor has historically been common among tobacco tenants and their families, including children.  There are also reports that young girls have been traded or sold among tribal chiefs along the border with Tanzania.  Over the past 2 years, the practice of poor families  exchanging daughters for cattle or money has reportedly re-emerged, though not in large numbers.  Malawi is a source country for children trafficked regionally and internationally for menial labor or commercial sexual exploitation.  There are also unconfirmed reports of small numbers of children trafficked internally to resort areas around Lake Malawi for sex tourism

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery - Malawi",, [accessed <date>]