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MALAWI: Illegal orphanages mushroom


MALAWI: Illegal orphanages mushroom

Photo: IRIN
Many Malawian children survive on only one meal a day
LILONGWE, 20 October 2006 (IRIN) - There are over a million orphans in Malawi, half of whom have lost one or both parents to AIDS, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), but only 15 out of almost a thousand orphanages are registered with the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

"Normally, we do not support orphanages but the problem we have is poverty as a result of pressure on families due to the AIDS epidemic. The extended family system is still there, otherwise the situation would have been very bad ... Government has no option but to allow people to open orphanages where they can take care of children," said Penson Kilembe, director of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

"However, this does not mean that the extended family system is falling apart or disintegrating. If this were the case then we would have many children in the streets or in the orphanage homes. Government is allowing people to open these centres because it is the only last resort to deal with the problem."

The extended family system is a strong tradition in the Southern African country, but almost half the population struggles to live on less than US$1 a day, HIV/AIDS affects nearly a million of Malawi's 12 million people, including 83,000 children, and nearly a third of infected mothers pass the virus to their babies.

James Amidu, 12, who lives in the capital, Lilongwe, lost his father two years ago. "We are three of us and our mother is married to another man, but he is not taking care of us. Instead, we are going around begging and sometimes we spend time at a social rehabilitation center [run by the Ministry of Women and Child Development] in Lilongwe. It is a hard life and it is tough."

Kilembe believed the number of orphans would decline as the grip of HIV/AIDS on the country eased, and pointed out that the government lacked capacity to monitor the proliferation of orphanages. "Government has not failed to inspect these centres. We know there are a number of them that are not registered, and the minister has powers to close them down once we discover that they are not registered, as required by law."

The ministry also supports families willing to take on orphans by empowering them to start small businesses.

The government's seeming reluctance to take action against illegal orphanages is also influenced by the lack

2006 Oct 20