Health services, which rank among the poorest in Africa, are under the jurisdiction and supervision of the Ministry of Health and are provided to Africans free of charge. In the mid-1990s, 80% of the population had access to health care services. As of 1999, it was estimated that there were fewer than 0.05 physicians and 1.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people. In 2000, 57% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 77% had adequate sanitation. Access to safe water and sanitation at times has been severely impeded by war.
The major health threats are malnutrition, malaria, tuberculosis, measles, (4,218 cases in 1995), dysentery, and bilharzia. Hookworm and schistosomiasis are widespread. At the end of 2001, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was estimated at 850,000 (including 65% of the adult population) and deaths from AIDS that year were estimated at 80,000. HIV prevalence in 1999 was 15.96 per 100 adults. Malawi has taken an aggressive approach to AIDS prevention and allocates a substantial portion of its health budget on treatment.
As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 37.13 and 23.2 per 1,000 people. About 31% of married women were using contraceptives as of 2000. The infant mortality rate in 2000 was 103 per 1,000 live births, one of the highest in Africa. The major cause of infant death in Malawi is diarrheal disease. In 1995, 26,000 children died before the age of five. The maternal mortality rate was 580 per 100,000 live births in 1995. As of 1999, an estimated 48% of children under five years old were considered malnourished. Immunization rates in 1997 for children up to one year old were: tuberculosis, 100%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 95%; polio, 94%; and measles, 87%. Life expectancy was 39 years in 2000.