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Last updated: 16-March-2012


An "orphan" has been defined as a child who has lost one or both parents because of death and is under the age of 18" and a "vulnerable child" is "a child who needs care and protection."

There are 132 million children in the developing world who have lost one or both parents. 25 million children were orphaned by HIV/AIDS alone in the year 2010. One billion children are currently living in poverty, over 9 million children are dying annually of preventable diseases and malnutrition and 77 million children are out of school, 44 million of these are girls.

Orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) face a number of challenges, including finding money for school fees, food, clothing, and access to basic healthcare. Their desperation makes them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, ultimately making them more susceptible to contracting HIV. Less than 15 percent of OVC receive any kind of international support - the majority of the support they receive comes from their own communities. Effective responses to the challenges facing these children must strengthen the capacity of families and communities to continue providing care, protection, and assistance to them in, at minimum, meeting their basic needs.

Country Situational Overview

According to the USAID's Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening for OVC, 930,000 people are living with HIV, including 91,000 children aged 0 to 14 years. AIDS has contributed to the vulnerability of 880,000 children who have lost one or both parents. The overall prevalence of orphaned children in Malawi is 12 percent, while the prevalence of otherwise vulnerable children is 6 percent, according to the country’s 2010 United Nations General Assembly Special Session report (UNGASS, 2010).

OVCs in Malawi typically lack access to services and rights that they are entitled to receive, including those for education, health, vocational, and life skills (World Food Program, 2009). OVC are less likely to attend school than other children, and their school attendance is often compromised because they need to earn a wage for their households.

Traditionally, Malawians consider the care of children a responsibility not only of the nuclear family but also of the extended family and local community. When parents are unable to care for their children, individuals from the latter two groups often assume a caretaking role for the children.

However, in a country where 52 percent of people live below the poverty line, family and community safety nets are stretched beyond their capacity.

Although support services for the care of OVC are provided free of charge to some households, many more are left in need. In 2006, 85 percent of OVC households received no support services of any kind.

Current Key Issues & Challenges in OVC Care & Adoption

In 2003, the Government of Malawi developed an OVC policy and launched the National Plan of Action for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children (NPA) in 2005. The overarching objective of this strategic document is to strengthen the capacity of families, communities, and government to scale up efforts that ensure the survival, growth, protection, and development of OVC. The NPA calls for the involvement of a multisectoral set of actors and stakeholders in the OVC response.

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development (MOGCCD) coordinates implementation of services for children through the Department of Children Affairs. The coordination of activities is carried out by professional staff at Ministry headquarters in Lilongwe and in 28 district social welfare offices. In addition, the Department of Children Affairs also looks into policy development, training, measurement and evaluation, standardization, and the provision of technical assistance and supervision to the district level. The Department’s OVC activities are monitored by the National AIDS Commission, which is mandated to lead and coordinate the nationwide HIV/AIDS response as outlined in the HIV and AIDS National Action Framework (NAF). This blueprint sets out goals and objectives to mitigate the social impact of HIV/AIDS among OVC. Accordingly, the NPA strategy draws from this document. The NAF supports a comprehensive set of interventions that include psychosocial support, education, and legal and material support. In addition, the MOGCCD chairs two groups, the National OVC Steering Committee and the National OVC Technical Working Group. The former coordinates OVC policy, while the latter coordinates technical areas of the OVC response.

The GoM is in the process of decentralizing and is devolving administrative responsibilities to districts. District Councils, which are headed by district commissioners, serve as local governing units. District Councils create plans for district development and for annual health-related activities. These plans are known respectively as District Development Plans and District Implementation Plans (DIPs). Recently, District Councils have begun to develop District Action Plans (DAPs) for activities related to OVC, girls, women, and HIV/AIDS. In a given district, the DAP is intended to be separate from but complementary to the DIP.

The District Council structure includes a Directorate of Health and Social Welfare, which has four divisions, including one for social welfare and another for community development. MOGCCD positions exist within both of these divisions.

Some of the functions of the Social Welfare Division are the provision of services for family and child protection, school/hospital social work, and juvenile crime prevention. Another component of the District Council is the Directorate of Programs. It has two divisions, one of which is dedicated to community development – a method of social work. Key functions of this directorate are the obilization of communities for development projects, provision of services to build community capacity, and provision of civic education on HIV/AIDS. The respective purviews of the Social Welfare Division and the Community Development Division are not entirely discrete; there is some overlap.

Civil society organizations, such as nongovernmental and community- and faith-based organizations, support government efforts on OVC. Such organizations play a critical role in minimizing gaps in OVC services and care by providing a variety of services to ensure the well-being of children. Some also provide training to MOGCCD staff.




1. Most part of this write-up is an adaptation of the "Social Welfare Workforce Strengthening for OVC" published by the USAID

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