|Children Orphaned by Aids - Front-line Responses from Eastern and Southern Africa (UNAIDS, 2000, 36 p.)|
It is estimated that around one in seven of the population aged 15 - 49 years in Malawi is infected with HIV. Over 25 per cent of women attending antenatal clinics in the urban centres of Blantyre and Lilongwe test positive for HIV, and girls aged 15 - 24 are six times more likely to be sero-positive than boys the same age. The incidence of tuberculosis has more than tripled since the late 1980s, largely due to HIV.
The AIDS crisis has had a crippling impact on the country's children. By the end of 1997,6 per cent of children under the age of 15 in Malawi were orphans.
By the end of 1997, 6 per cent of children under the age of 15 in Malawi were orphans. A boy orphaned by AIDS tends a pot cooking on an open fire.
UNICEF/94- 1 207/Andrew
It was recognized early on that because communities are in the best position to assess their own needs, they would play an important role in addressing the AIDS orphan crisis. One of the Government's main strategies, therefore, has been to promote and support community-based programmes.
Setting priorities early on
It was recognized early on that because communities are in the best position to assess their own needs, they would play an important role in addressing the AIDS orphan crisis. One of the Government's main strategies, there-fore, has been to promote and support community-based programmes.
As early as 1991, the Government of Malawi established a National Orphan Care Task Force. The Task Force - made up of national and district representatives from the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Community Services; the National AIDS Control Programme (Ministry of Health and Population); NGOs; religious organizations and UNICEF - is responsible for planning, monitoring and revising all programmes on orphan care.
One year later, in 1992, National Orphan Care Guidelines were established. The guidelines serve as a broad blueprint to encourage and focus sub-national and community efforts. Over the years, the guidelines have been revised and have guided many of the local and district efforts to support orphans. The Government will use the lessons learned from these initiatives to develop a National Orphan Care Policy.
The Task Force has also established a subcommittee that is reviewing existing laws and legal procedures to provide greater protection to vulnerable children. Recommendations for modifying several laws to protect orphans have been submitted to the
Ministry of Justice. These laws include the Wills and Inheritance Act, the Adoption Act, the Child and Young Persons Act and the Foster Care Act. A shortage of lawyers in the Ministry of Justice, however, has significantly delayed this process.
Care for the youngest
Researchers have thoroughly documented the importance of the pre- and postnatal months and the first three years of life in a child's development. Concerned agencies such as UNICEF and others are now making what is designated as "early childhood care for In survival, growth and development" a cornerstone of their child programmes.
Malawi has led the way in the region on early childcare and development (ECCD),and its pioneering work has been adopted by neighbouring countries, including Zambia. ECCD, which in Malawi covers children under eight years of age, has played an especially important role in providing care for the country's AIDS orphans.
Across the country, community-based organizations, working closely with district social welfare officers, are setting up child-care centres with the aim of improving the care of children as well as increasing their learning opportunities. At the centres, which are for all children in the community, children play, learn, socialize and eat. Caregivers ensure that orphans in their communities attend the centres and benefit from their activities.