Dial 118 to Call an Ambulance in Malawi

Malawi: Ambulance and Emergency Medical Services



In 2019, the country implemented a new emergency medical services along the M1 highway from Blantyre to Lilongwe.



If you are not along the M1 highway between Blantyre and Lilongwe, you may also want to try:

  • 990 or 997 for the Police Department
  • 999 for the Fire Department

Yes, you can call 118 from anywhere in the country, but the Ministry of Health ambulance service only providers service along the M1 highway from Lilongwe to Blantyre. Outside of that area, “Assistance is only available only in some areas of the country and only works when the caller has a mobile phone plan with one of several telecommunications companies operating in Malawi. Others reported that those numbers did not work when they were dialed” (Chokotho 2017).


St John Ambulance Malawi

  • Blantyre: +265 111 840 170
  • Lilongwe: +265 111 979 605
    • Cell: +265 999 598 760/ 884 056 905

Medical Aid Society of Malawi:

  • Blantyre
    • Tel: 01 831 744/788
    • Fax: 01 831 722
    • Mobiles: 0888 189 074/075
    • MTL: 0111 620 266
    • Access: 0212 956 577
  • Lilongwe:
    • Mobiles: 0888 189 070/072
    • MTL:  0111 627 307
  • Mzuzu:
    • Mobiles: 0888 189 068/069
    • MTL: 0111 620 263

The Department of Disaster Management Affairs is the Government of Malawi’s agency responsible for coordinating and directing the implementation of disaster risk management programs in the country in order to improve and safeguard the quality of life of Malawians, especially those vulnerable to and affected by disasters.

Contact: +265 1 789 188

Starting in 2018, the Ministry of Health and the Malawi Red Cross began training clinical staff and laypersons, respectively, in prehospital emergency care.

Prior to that, the literature states: “In major cities, fire departments may provide first aid to injured persons, but they lack necessary medical equipment and are unable to transport trauma patients. Traffic police respond to crash sites when called, but officers are not trained in first aid and are rarely able to provide patient transportation. A few private organizations offer ambulance services, but these serve only a small proportion of the population, and their personnel and equipment often arrive at the scene of a traffic collision only after patients have already been transported to hospitals by alternative means. In the smaller cities, nearly all roadside first aid and other prehospital care is provided by community members.”  (Chokotho 2017)

Major First Response Organizations Available in Malawi

In addition to the equipment stated in the table presented in the previous section, it’s also a practice in villages to transport patients via bicycle ambulances to the hospital. In a study conducted in 2012, “the [bicycle] ambulances serviced a total of 201 villages and sub-villages and carried a total of 348 patients” (Rosato 2012).

As with many other countries with under-developed EMS systems, a majority of patients rely on private transport to get to hospitals.

“Four of the 15 participating facilities had dedicated accident and emergency (A&E) units. These include three central hospitals (Mzuzu Central Hospital in the northern region, Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre. Only two of the facilities (Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre) have formal trauma registries.”  (Chokoto 2017)

Hospitals with Accident and Emergency Units in Malawi

“There is no social health insurance system operating in Malawi. Private health insurance exists, but to a small degree largely due to the state provision of free health care and financing of health services, and in part due to the high levels of poverty. However, in recent years private health insurance has become an important element of health financing. Those currently covered by insurance schemes such as the Medical Aid Society of Malawi are employees of institutions that provide either full or partial medical insurance cover and international utilization of health insurance is almost negligible. Government funding is the main source of health financing in Malawi. The majority of the people in Malawi are poor and cannot afford to pay for health care. As a result, the Government of Malawi provides free health care at its health facilities to all residents in Malawi, as well as free referrals for specialized treatment outside the country.” (

“The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. All medical services in Malawi are paid for in cash. Individuals should get a receipt for any services and submit the receipt to their insurance company for reimbursement.” (

The Christian Association of Malawi facilities, mostly located in rural areas, charges user fees to cover operational costs.

The Medical Aid Society of Malawi offers various insurance plans at different price points.


Common Emergencies in Malawi

“The main threat to Malawi arises from weather related events, the most frequently occurring being floods.   According to UNDP-Malawi, floods have impacted Malawi 157 times from 1946 to 2005. Malawi’s rainy season falls between the months of November and May.  During this period, the amount of precipitation can range anywhere from 725 to 2,500 mm (Malawi Meteorological Services 2009a). Flooding is not limited to a particular geographic area in Malawi. During the rainy season, rain events may be heavy, resulting in a downpour of monsoon-like rain to many parts of Malawi. The opposite side of a heavy rain event is a drought (or dry spell), another hazard, which threatens Malawi.  UNDP-Malawi reported six occurrences of droughts between 1946 and 2005.  While droughts have occurred less than floods, their impact has had a greater effect on the country.  As a matter of fact, the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) reports that the number of people affected by droughts since 1965 is almost 20 million,while floods have only impacted close to 2 million people over the same time period (EM-DAT 2009).” [Source:]

Vaccinations for Malawi

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), different groups of travelers will require different vaccinations for travel in Malawi:

  • All Travelers:
    • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine
    • Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
    • Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
    • Polio vaccine
    • Your yearly flu shot
  • Most Travelers:
    • Hepatitis A
    • Malaria
    • Typhoid
  • Some Travelers:
    • Cholera
    • Hepatitis B
    • Rabies
    • Yellow Fever – “There is no risk of yellow fever in Malawi. The government of Malawi requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. This does not include the US.” See full list here.

Read more about travel in Malawi at the CDC website: (Last accessed: Oct. 10, 2017)

“Prior to 1991, Malawi did not have an official disaster response program. Officials acknowledge that disaster management in the country wason an “ad hoc” (Ng’oma, Mwamlima 2008) basis, oftentimes, very reactive. However, previous practices soon changed following the Phalombe flash floods on March 11, 1991. As previously mentioned, these floods caused 500 to 1,000 deaths and displaced over 8,000 people. This event also impacted the country’s infrastructure, including roads, bridges, buildings, and water supply. The Phalombe flash floods, therefore, precipitated the development of the Disaster Preparedness and Relief Act of 1991. This Act established a basic foundation for emergency or disaster management in the country.” [Source: “Emergency Management in Malawi” (FEMA)

“Emergency management in Malawi is conducted within the Department of Poverty and Disaster Management Affairs (DoPDMA). There are two sections within this office: poverty affairs and disaster management affairs. The disaster management section of DoPDMA is staffed with four professional disaster risk management officers. These individuals operate out of the national office in Lilongwe. “The Department does not have personnel at a district level and undertakes its activities through district commissioners” (J. Chiusiwa: personal email, February 20, 2009).” [Source: “Emergency Management in Malawi” (FEMA)]

“Malawi’s Ministry of Health is responsible for healthcare in Malawi. 62% of health services are provided by the government, 37% are provided by the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM), and a small fraction of the population receive health services through the private sector. Private doctors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) offer services and medicines for a nominal fee.[3] The public health system has three separate tiers (primary, secondary, and tertiary care). A system of referrals links these three tiers.” [Source:]

  • Chasimpha S, McLean E, Chihana M, Kachiwanda L, Koole O, Tafatatha T. “Patterns and risk factors for deaths from external causes in rural Malawi over 10 years: a prospective population-based study.” BMC Public Health; 2015;15:1036.
  • Chokotho L, Mulwafu W, Singini I, Njalale Y, Jacobsen KH. “Improving hospital-based trauma care for road traffic injuries in Malawi.” World Journal Emergency Medicine; 2017; 8(2):85-90
  • Chokotho L, Mulwafu W, Singini I, Njalale Y, Maliwichi-Senganimalunje L, Jacobsen KH. “First responders and pre-hospital care for road traffic accidents in Malawi.” Prehospital Disaster Med; 2017;32:14–19.
  • Chokotho L, Mulwafu W, Jacobsen KH, Pandit H, Lavy C. “The burden of trauma in four rural district hospitals in Malawi: a retrospective review of medical records.” Injury; 2014;45(12):2065–70.
  • Mulwafu W, Chokotho L, Mkandawire N, Pandit H, Deckelbaum DL, Lavy C,  Jacobsen KH. “Trauma care in Malawi: A call to action.” Malawi Medical Journal; 2017; 29(2): 198–202.
  • Olukoga A. “Trends in road traffic crashes, casualties and fatalities in Malawi.” Trop Doct; 2007;37(1):24–8.
  • Rosato M, Malamba F, Kunyenge B, Phiri T, Mwansambo C, Kazembe P, Costello A, Lewycka S. “Strategies developed and implemented by women’s groups to improve mother and infant health and reduce mortality in rural Malawi” International Health; 2012; 4:176-184.


% of Seriously Injured Transported by Ambulance in Malawi 2013


[Source: 2013 Global Status Report on Road Safety, WHO]


[Source: 2015 Global Status Report on Road Safety, WHO]


[Source: 2014 Global Status Report on Violence Prevention, WHO-UNDP]


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