Head of family at 13
A child headed family receives assistance from the UNICEF supported Tiwasamale Community Based Child Care Centre after their mother died and father abandoned them.
Lilongwe, 22 November 2007 - Gaelle Sevenier – While most children spend their early teenage years in school, playing with friends, Liness, a 13 year-old Malawian boy from the district of Blantyre, did not have this chance in life. When mother died of pneumonia in 2005, his father left immediately after and never came back. The young boy was left alone, with the enormous responsibility of caring for his five younger brothers and sisters, aged 4 to 12.
“It is a tradition in some cultures in Malawi that when the mother dies in a village, the father leaves the house and remarries, without taking care of the children. It is very often that children remain alone” explains Chilizamudzi Matola, UNICEF Eearly Childhood Development officer. The Malawian Government, supported by UNICEF, set up a child protection community service with trained social workers. They identify the problems and sensitize the community on children’s rights and harmful traditional practices.
The UNICEF supported Tiwasamale Community Based Child Care Centre recently identified Liness’s family as a child-headed household in need of immediate assistance. The Community Centre brings them blankets and monthly supplies of food including soja flour, rice, poridge and cooking oil. “The community based organization helps us a lot” admits the older brother. “Thanks to them we can survive.” The food coming from the centre is often the only food the family of six children has. Although it is very little, it allows them to eat at least once a day. “Personally, I prefer to have a lunch” says the older brother.
“You have to understand how hard it is for us” says Liness. ‘It is a very big responsibility for me to find work, here people are poor, there are so few jobs. And the time that I do not spend with my friends is the time I need to spend working or looking for something to earn money. I miss my friends…”