Responding to the needs of children and their communities
One of UNICEF Malawi's key pillars in on Child-Friendly, Inclusive and Resilient Communities. It is being delivered as an integrated approach based on a socio-ecological model that provides children the support of an enabling environment and systems for them to grow, thrive, and realize their rights. The pillar interventions cover a broad range of areas and cut across all sectors and selected change strategies. Interventions will be implemented nationally and in selected districts, building on existing decentralized delivery platforms (both formal and informal), with outreach to communities.
In line with the Government of Malawi’s increased focus on decentralization in the MGDS-III, through this pillar, UNICEF Malawi will contribute to supporting decentralized structures at district and sub-district levels to respond to the strategic and practical needs of children and their communities. At the same time, UNICEF Malawi will support upstream work at the national and district levels which includes strengthening government capacity to ensure effective policy implementation, standards-setting, evidence-based planning, budgeting and development of robust service delivery institutional frameworks. Delivery platforms to reach households and communities will be coordinated by district councils under the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
Sadly, rates of violence against children in Malawi are high, from their earliest years into adolescence. This has a devastating effect, not only on children themselves, but on the community and country as a whole. Almost half of girls in Malawi marry before the age of 18 – this is one of the highest rates of child marriage anywhere on the globe. There are also thousands of children living in institutional care such as orphanages, despite having at least one living parent. There is a large body of evidence which documents the negative and irreversible effects of institutional care on children’s development, especially during their first three to five years of life. While there have been important gains in the ability to protect children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation, challenges remain. It is important to eliminate harmful social and cultural norms, that enable violence, and provide quality, integrated and accessible services for children who have been harmed or remain at risk.
To protect every child in Malawi, changes are required across the ‘socio-ecological framework’. UNICEF works at the institutional level to help create an enabling environment (laws, policies, and coordination mechanisms) that safeguard child rights. At the community level, UNICEF supports delivery of quality child protection services. At the individual and close-relationship level, UNICEF works to foster behaviours and practices that support child wellbeing and protection. In the new country programme, UNICEF will focus on making sure communities are able to do the following:
- Communities are able to practice positive social behaviours in the best interest of the child and demand the delivery of quality and resilient, child-friendly services.
Substantial investment is required to end harmful social norms and help end the silence around traditional practices that negatively impact children. UNICEF Malawi will address these issues as a matter of priority by implementing programmes to help achieve positive social and behavioural change in the lives of children at the household and community level. Programmes will utilize behaviour and social change communication strategies, and facilitate community engagement and empowerment in support of positive behaviours that address key issues impacting children, such as child marriage and harmful practices.
- Communities are able to hold duty bearers accountable for the delivery of quality and resilient, child-friendly services.
Support for the review and analysis of social service spending for child-focused sectors, in terms of size and composition, and public dissemination of budgets, aims to foster social accountability and transparency of public financial management processes at both national and district levels, and make local government budgets and systems work better for children. UNICEF Malawi will help strengthen community voices and engagement with local governments using social accountability tools and platforms, such as Bwalo, that also educate communities and support their claim-making capabilities. Combining these efforts with readily accessible information on which services are available will enable communities to hold duty bearers accountable.
- Households and communities prepare for and are resilient to climate change and economic shocks, and are supported to overcome chronic vulnerabilities that affect children
Resilience to shock and climate change at household and community levels will be facilitated by enhancing coherence and connectivity between major humanitarian interventions and longer-term programming, including risk-informed programme design, preparedness, needs assessment and response.
-Government and local authorities are supported to operationalize key policies and legal frameworks, and develop plans and budgets for strengthened and coordinated social sectors’ response to address disparities and deprivations
The country programme will focus on strengthening the process of decentralization. By design, the MGDS-III has provided momentum to the process of decentralization with a push to devolve all social services to local levels. National level, large scale programmes which have demonstrated impact will also be closely linked and implemented through decentralized structures. UNICEF’s comparative advantage to work across sectors will support this process with the aim of fostering multi-sectoral approaches, promoting greater service efficiency in under-resourced districts. Local-level coordination mechanisms are in place but suffer from both technical and financial constraints. Providing support to decentralized structures, as well as formal and informal feedback mechanisms, which will in turn improve the flow of information and monitoring the delivery of social services, will provide district authorities information on the quality of services. In addition, efforts to provide real-time frontline data and its integration and use by national information management systems will increasingly be supported to ensure that local and national level decision-making is informed by timely data. Investments in integration and inter-operability of decision-making support systems will be further strengthened through district level information systems, which will be strengthened through a coordinated UN response to the government’s efforts for developing an integrated management information system.