Malawi is one of the poorest countries globally with alarmingly high poverty levels. Although a majority of the poor live in rural areas, urban poverty is also high. Malawi’s children face a difficult future with over two thirds of them deprived of basic facilities which include access to education, health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene. Malawi ranks 173 out of 188 countries in the 2015 Human Development Report. These severe poverty levels have serious consequences for children and women.
Life for many children and women in Malawi is characterized 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 37 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 is at 57 years. In 2016, an estimated 940,000 adults (15-49) and 40,000 children (0-14) 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. Malawi was the first country to include the ambitious 90-90-90 targets for epidemic control into its National
Strategic Plan (2015-2020). The plan means that 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status; 90% of people living with HIV are on antiretroviral treatment (ART); 90% of people on ART have viral load suppression. In 2016, Malawi also launched Test and Treat, a bold initiative to place all people living with HIV on ART. Despite these efforts, the scale of the epidemic and the shortage of human and financial resources have hindered progress.
The Malawi Government’s revenue situation has changed in recent years and the National budget is now entirely constituted by domestic revenue. Prior to on-budget support withdrawal, donor support accounted for up to 40% of government budget expenditure. The change has resulted in a reprioritisation of expenditure by the Government of Malawi.
In the 2016/17 national budget the allocation to social sectors increased by one percent. The increase to the social sectors however is not significant when compared to the overall 19 percent, increase of the national budget. Considering that 80 percent of Malawi’s population is poor and vulnerable, there is a need to deliberately increase resources that will have the most impact in the social sectors. These increases will enable the government to achieve meaningful progress in education, health, nutrition and other social sectors and therefore transform the lives of those most in need.
The Health, Education 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. 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 Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). 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.