Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Malawi
There are over 1.8 million vulnerable children in Malawi (National Plan of Action for Vulnerable Children 2015-2019). Out of those children, almost one million have lost one or both parents to AIDS. According to UNICEF, one-fifth of Malawian households care for orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). The majority of those families lack the means to provide basic necessities.
Outcomes for Orphans and Vulnerable Children
OVC are at greater risk for poor health and educational outcomes. OVC often lack parental care and support, have inadequate shelter and limited access to education and healthcare and are at a risk for exploitation and abuse. Additionally, orphans and other vulnerable children suffer depression, increased malnutrition, lower rates of immunizations, lower rates of schooling, homelessness, and exposure to HIV infection (Hunter and Williamson, 1997). Furthermore, having a parent with HIV/AIDS means that children experience the trauma of caring for their parents, and may need to provide support to siblings, elderly guardians or other HIV positive relatives.
Best Practices for Care of Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children
A review of the literature indicates that the following practices should be components of OVC care. All of these practices are included in Jacaranda Foundation’s model of comprehensive education and care and support for the families of their students.
1. Strengthen the capacity of families
Families and extended families are the first source of support for orphans and other vulnerable children. The extended family support systems should be encouraged to continue their traditional obligation to care for and protect orphaned children. Relief aid and assistance should be given to assist extended family members and help them care for vulnerable children.
2. Strengthen community-based responses
For OVC whose families cannot adequately provide for their basic needs, the community is the second safety net. Community support can be mobilized through programs that reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, encourage communities to take responsibility for children, and coordinate supportive activities such as health care and informal schooling.
3. Provide psychosocial support
Providing counseling services to orphans and their guardians is necessary. Orphaned children experience feelings of grief, abandonment, loneliness, depression, anxiety, trauma, and stigma. Without appropriate care, psychological problems may persist into adulthood.
4. Build the capacities of children to support themselves
Enabling children to stay in school and to learn vocational skills improves their ability to provide for their own needs. Interventions to help children continue their education must address specific factors that cause them to drop out. Interventions include assistance with school expenses, vocational training, and apprenticeships with local artisans.
The Jacaranda Foundation supports this family and community-based comprehensive approach to care for orphans and vulnerable children.
Hunter, S., and J. Williamson. 1997. Children on the Brink. Strategies to Support Children Isolated by HIV/AIDS. Technical Health Services Project of TvT Associates, Pragma Corporation, and U.S. Agency for International Development, HIV/AIDS Division, Arlington, VA.
Malawi National Plan of Action (NPA) for Vulnerable Children 2015 – 2019.
Maluwa-Banda, D., and C.R. Bandawe. A Rapid Appraisal of the Orphan Situation in Malawi. Issues, Challenges and Prospects. Educational Foundations Department, 2000
UNICEF. 2007. Enhanced Protection for Children Affected by AIDS: A Companion Paper to The Framework for the Protection, Care and Support of Orphans and Vulnerable Children Living in a World with HIV and AIDS. New York.