With child rights abuses on the rise as a result of poverty, food insecurity, HIV and AIDS and weak social service capacity, the imperative to ensure children are protected is more urgent than ever. Only six per cent of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi receive medical support, four per cent get psychosocial support, nine per cent get material support and only six per cent receive educational support.
UNICEF through its Orphans, Vulnerable Children and Child Protection programme works with national and international partners to create a policy, legal and institutional environment which is conducive to scaling up protection, care and support services for orphans and vulnerable children. The programme aims to strengthen national capacity at all levels to implement the National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and to mobilize families and communities to care for and protect their vulnerable children.The National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children is Malawi's overarching framework for providing services to vulnerable children. From helping to develop the national plan in 2004 to strengthening the Ministry of Women and Child Development's leadership in implementing the Plan, UNICEF has been the lead UN agency providing support to orphans and vulnerable children.
Early childhood development (ECD) remains a significant priority in the protection and care of young orphans and vulnerable children. ECD in Malawi is delivered through an extensive network of community-based childcare centers (CBCCs), which are owned and run by parents, guardians and the community at large. These centers are set up for young children under the age of five and provide play and access to good nutrition, healthcare, safe water and proper hygiene. There are 5,700 such centers catering for 400,000 children
As parents and family members continue to die from HIV-related illnesses, communities are struggling to help children cope with grief, loss and instability in their lives. The Ministry of Women and Child Development and UNICEF have joined forces to address this issue through bolstering psychosocial services throughout the country. A training manual called 'The Journey of Life' is used to train service providers. It is a child-centered intervention that addresses the psychosocial needs of children between the ages of 6 and 13.
Malawi has drafted key pieces of legislation - the Child Care Protection and Justice Bill, the Wills and Inheritance Act and the Birth Registration Act - but they are yet to be enacted. UNICEF continues to support the Ministry of Women and Child Development to advocate for the enactment of these bills, which would tremendously improve the rights of children in the country once legislated. A network for children with disabilities has been established.
Children in conflict with the law often face traumatic experiences with the criminal justice system in Malawi, which is focussed on punishment more than restoration. UNICEF has worked with the National Juvenile Justice Forum to raise awareness among district official and service providers on diversion of child offenders. Four pilot sites have been established for restorative justice and child-friendly courts are in operation in Blantyre and Mzuzu. In response to Malawi's growing trend of violence against children, a multimedia campaign to combat child abuse was launched in June 2007. The 'Stop Child Abuse' campaign employs radio and TV programmes, billboards, leaflets, factsheets, posters, sarongs and handbooks to target policy makers and the general public with a demand to put an end to violence against children. In May 2007,1.4 million comic books called 'Trolley Full of Rights' were distributed to all primary schools across the country. The books teach children about their rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and are designed for 6-10 year-olds.
Real lives: Orphans and other vulnerable children and child protection
Real Lives tells the stories of children in Malawi whose lives have been touched by UNICEF.
Resources: Orphans and vulnerable children and child protection