Malawi’s children face a difficult future. The country is one of the poorest in the world and ranks 170th of the 186 surveyed countries in the 2013 Human Development Index. 31.4% of the population lives in severe poverty, with serious consequences for children and women.
Life for many children and women in Malawi is characterised by poor access to healthcare and a high incidence of diarrhoea, malaria and other communicable diseases. Malnutrition levels have remained high for over a decade and 46 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted.
Like most countries in Southern Africa, Malawi is at the epicentre of the HIV epidemic. AIDS-related illnesses are robbing the country of people in their prime – life expectancy at birth now stands at 54.8 years. In 2009 an estimated 120,000 children in Malawi were living with HIV, and more than half a million children had been orphaned by AIDS. The government and international donors have both made commendable efforts to increase access to treatment and to improve prevention initiatives. Factors such as the scale of the epidemic and the shortage of human and financial resources available however have hindered progress.
The government has demonstrated a resolve to improve social service delivery by increasing budgetary allocations. In the country’s 2012/13 budget, the health sector will receive the estimated allocation of 12.75 per cent of the total budget, and health expenditure per capita was raised from 26US$ in 2008 to 31US$ in 2011/12. 20.4% of the total budget in 2012/13 is allocated to education. The education sector has been allocated more than the other MGDS Key Priority Areas and it will enable the sector implement planned activities such as the construction of 2,000 classrooms, 1,000 teacher houses and 3 teachers training colleges, rehabilitation of secondary schools and technical colleges.
The health, education, water, sanitation and agriculture sectors all have Sector-Wide Approaches (SWAps). SWAp is a process in which all significant funding for the sector - whether internal or external - supports a single policy and expenditure programme under government leadership, with common approaches across the sector. It is accompanied by progressive reliance on government procedures to disburse and account for all funds. What this means is a more coherent and coordinated approach to developing, funding and implementing programmes that have a direct impact on the quality of children’s lives.
UNICEF has been operating in Malawi since 1964. The current UNICEF/Government of Malawi Country Programme of Cooperation aims to support national efforts to progressively realise the rights of children and women through improved child survival, development, protection and participation.
The programme is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Children (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Millennium Declaration. It is also in line with the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy through the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and contributes to sustainable economic development and food security, social protection and disaster reduction and management, access to equitable basic social services, HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment, and good governance. The country programme has also integrated the four cross-cutting areas of the UNDAF: human rights, gender, disaster risk reduction and capacity development for programme implementation.
The country programme has four programme components: