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Updated: 13-March-2012

Malawi Children
Pictures: By George Mwika Kayange


On this page, we provide a general overview of the child rights situation in Malawi, taking into consideration that "child rights" is a very broad topic. The specific issues affecting the rights of the child will therefore be detailed in subsequent topics on other web pages, such as child labour, child trafficking, child education, child health, etc.

In  addition, we are pleased to report that CRIDOC was among the six local NGOs in Malawi that were assigned to research and publish the Shadow/Alternative Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was submitted to the UN in Geneva in September 2008. Besides several other resources, we will therefore largely base a significant part of this write-up on the country's 2008 CRC Shadow Report in order to give you a fair reflection of the situation of children in Malawi.

Country Overview

Malawi, home to 6.8 million children (51 percent of the total population), has made significant progress in realizing some of the key child-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Results from the UNICEF-supported 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) show a sharp decline in infant and under-five mortality rates per 1,000 live births, from 104 and 189 deaths in 2000 to 72 and 122 in 2006 respectively. If the current trend continues, Malawi is likely to achieve the MDG 4 goal of reducing infant and child mortality by two thirds. The 2006 Malawi Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey also found that 29 percent of children in the 5-14 age group were engaged in child labour.

Despite progress in child mortality reduction, one in eight children are still dying, mostly of preventable causes such as neonatal conditions, pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and HIV-related diseases. Malnutrition levels remain high and account for about half of all child deaths. Malawi faces many challenges in order to achieve the MDGs, including widespread poverty, weak institutional and human capacity, limited resources because of competing needs and deep-rooted harmful traditional practices.

Poverty continues to be chronic and widespread and the country's development is thwarted by a fast growing population, limited arable land, cyclical natural disasters, food insecurity, malnutrition, HIV and AIDS, and a high incidence of malaria, one of the leading killers of children under the age of five, and relatively weak legislative system – all these factors weighing heavily against the realization of rights of children. Children’s ability to recover from these unrelenting risks and shocks weakens, while increasing their vulnerability to all forms of child abuse, including sexual exploitation.

Other forms of abuses the children in Malawi are subjected to include, but not limited to: child labour; defilement; commercial sexual abuse; trafficking; abandonment; desertion; neglected; abortion; dumping; harmful cultural practices; school drop-out; abuse of children in orphanages; illegal adoptions; early marriages; removal of organs; witchcraft; sodomy; use for street begging and vending; torture; corporal punishment; juvenile injustice; incest; pornography; property grabbing; and drugs and alcohol abuse.

The attainment of a wide range of rights and the general welfare of children has been declining in the recent years as a result of increasing poverty, the weakening child protection systems, and the social impact of HIV and AIDS which has resulted in increasing numbers of child-headed families, child laborers, child sex workers, and children living in the street. During the first quarter of 2012, the child has continued to bear the brunt both directly and indirectly of the bad macro-economic governance and poor economic management which was characterised by the shortages of almost every basic commodity such as fuel, forex, water, electricity, medicine, and most significantly, the ever-rising prices of goods and services.

On the education front, over 10 percent of school aged children do not attend primary school, and only 26 percent of those enrolled actually complete the entire primary school cycle.

Furthermore, an estimated 89,000 children under the age of 15 who are living with AIDS will have to grapple with the ramifications of the rejection by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria of Malawi’s application of over MK84 billion to fund the national response towards the three diseases for a five year period from 2011 to 2016. Most of these children were infected through mother-to-child transmission, which accounts for close to 30,000 of infections among newborns every year.

In May 2011, there were disheartening reports that Malawi had – due to lower levels of investment in sectors benefiting children – plummeted from the top list of a scoreboard that ranks 52 African governments’ performance in budgeting for their children which was unveiled on 24 May 2011 in Dakar, Senegal. The Report – Budgeting for Children in Africa: Rhetoric, Reality and the Scorecard – ranked governments’ performance based on their spending in the four key sectors that affect child wellbeing, vis--vis health, education, social protection and early childhood development.

Key Recommendations

1. Government and development partners should seriously consider scaling up the Social Cash Transfer Programme to all districts in the country. We note that the programme has so far registered remarkable positive results in the few districts where it is currently being implemented, especially in the area of protection and promotion of children’s rights like
basic education, basic health, basic nutrition, basic sanitation, just to mention a few.

2. There is need for well-coordinated child protection policies and intervention programmes championed by all key stakeholders such as NGOs, private sector, government agencies and international donors; and

3. There is need for unflinching commitment from Government that should be mirrored in the levels of allocation in the national budget towards support (including psychosocial) services and national programmes for children.

Key References

1. 2008 Shadow/Alternative Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
2. The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) Scorecard; http://www.box.net/shared/z4z63vdgqs 
3. 2006 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS)
4. Malawi Development Report 2005 – Reversing HIV and AIDS in Malawi.
5. Malawi Human Rights Report on Cultural Practices and their Impact on the Enjoyment of Human Rights, Particularly the Rights of Women and Children in Malawi.

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CRIDOC is ...
 bullet Registered with Malawi Government under Trustees Incorporation Act
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bullet Affiliate of the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) in Malawi
 bullet An affiliate of the Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) in Malawi
bullet An affiliate of the Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) in Malawi
bullet In Consultative Status with UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
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