For every child, child-friendly, inclusive, resilient communities
Two 2017 studies – the Life Cycle Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Malawi and the UN Root Cause Analysis – highlight firmly entrenched harmful social norms and beliefs as one of the critical obstacles to realizing children’s rights in the country. Violence is a daily reality in the lives of children. Violence against children in Malawi resulted in the loss of MK234 billion in 2019, equivalent to 4.13 per cent of GDP.4 Eighty-two per cent of children experience violent discipline at home; 17 per cent of these cases are severe.5
Corporal punishment is common in schools, childcare institutions and police detention. Gender-based violence among adolescents is unacceptably high, as one in five girls and one in seven boys have experienced at least one incident of sexual abuse before 18. For girls between 13 and 17, most perpetrators are peers.6
Malawi has historically had one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 38 per cent of women between 20 and 24, and 21 per cent of women between 15 and 19 having married before the age of 18.7 The primary reasons for early marriage are the desire to form a family, poverty and unwanted pregnancy.8 Women are twice as likely to marry before 18 in rural (41 per cent) than in urban areas (22 per cent). A significant concern is marriage before age 15; 8 per cent of girls in rural areas and 4 per cent of girls in urban areas marry before they turn 15.
WASH & Climate Change
Malawi is considered a climate change hotspot, with over half of its 28 districts being disaster-prone. Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. 10 For Malawi, the models suggest more variable rainfall, with a higher likelihood of dry spells and extreme rainfall events. Malawi is among the top 40 countries ranked as having a high climate risk for children and most vulnerable communities, with climate-induced water scarcity the main factor.11 Access to water and sanitation services in Malawi is one of the lowest in Sub- Saharan Africa.
The government launched the National Adaptation Plan in March 2020, and the new National Determined Contributions, launched in 2021, indicates that all 80 adaptation measures require alignment with Sustainable Development Goal 6.
Malawi’s macro-fiscal situation is rapidly deteriorating due to the impact of COVID-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the global economic turmoil. Inflation rates have reached >25 per cent monthly, the kwacha devaluated of 25 per cent against the dollar, and Malawi’s forex reserves are below one week of import coverage, causing disruption in the import of fuel, fertilizers and essential drugs. Furthermore, high inflation and commodity prices might cause between 7 and 8 per cent of the Malawian population to fall into poverty, and an additional 5 per cent could become food insecure.12 Many of these are children.
Malawi does not invest sufficiently to counter the extensive deprivations endured by its children, owing to the small size of its budget and the limited capacity of its economy to produce the required revenue.
Funding for the social sectors remains unevenly distributed and very different in terms of sustainability. Whereas education and health continue to receive significant funding from national resources (16 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively), social protection, early childhood development, nutrition and WASH remain highly dependent on donor support (over 90 per cent). Child protection remains a neglected sector, with barely US$0.08 allocated per child per year.
Several challenges continue to affect the social protection sector. Social protection financing is overwhelmingly donor-dependent, raising sustainability concerns.
Social Norms & Behaviour Change Communication
Strongly entrenched harmful social norms and beliefs hamper children’s rights. Particularly affecting girls and women, these include gender discrimination, child marriages, killing and maiming people living with albinism and witchcraft persecution, all of which violate human rights and slow down social and economic development.
Under Child-friendly, Inclusive, Resilient Communities, UNICEF works with the government and partners to empower communities to practise positive social behaviours and prepare for economic shocks, climate change and emergencies.
UNICEF’s focus in Malawi for Child-friendly Resilient Communities is to:
- Localize child-focused policies and their functionality.
- Build capacity of service providers, social welfare officers, police and the judiciary to provide child-friendly and effective services to children.
- Help revise existing legislation to prohibit corporal punishment, and support compliance with the Malawian Constitution.
- Address harmful practices by empowering and engaging children, communities and leaders.
- Provide children with safe access to psychosocial support, recreation, empowerment and learning.
- Continue the roll-out of climate resilient water supply services in communities and institutions.
- Support the scaling up of sanitation marketing.
- Provide continuous support to the government’s climate change mitigation efforts.
- Provide strategic analysis and platforms to support the ring-fencing of social sector spending that is key for the Malawian government’s socio-economic development aspirations.
- Integrate social protection with other key social sectors.
- Strengthen the participation of affected populations in emergencies.