Govt’s inaction on child protection cost Malawi K245bn in 2019 alone

The Malawi Government lost K245 billion in 2019 due to its inaction on child protection, representing a 4.3 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Deputy Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Agnes Nkusa Nkhoma, has since described the figure as a big loss to Malawi, stressing that Malawians need to do something in order to protect children and save resources at the same time.

Nkhoma was speaking at the Day of African Child events, which took place in Lilongwe on Tuesday. The ministry organized the event in collaboration with its partners such as Save the Children and World Vision Malawi, among others.

Koch–If we really mean to realize children’s rights, we must accelerate and consolidate our efforts–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

The Deputy Minister said violence against children has a negative impact on the growth and development of our children.

“This has a huge economic repercussion in the country. Therefore investing in prevention interventions can save a lot of resources that can be invested to ensure that children grow, develop and thrive to their full potentials. Yet, we seem to have neglected this important intervention,” said Nkusa Nkhoma.

She cited child marriage and high adolescent birth rates, which for Malawi are among the highest in the world, as some of the harmful practices subjected to children.

She disclosed that over 10 percent of girls in Malawi are married by the age of 15 and 42 percent by the age of 18, with 35 percent of girls giving birth by the age of 18.

“These trends are even more pronounced in rural areas, with early marriage and adolescent fertility occurring at much higher rates, and highly correlated with low levels of education and wealth. If we are to address these trends, there is need to take stock of our interventions so that we can discard those that are not creating the needed impact and strengthen those that have worked over the years. However, there is little that can be achieved if we continue to practice harmful practices in our respective communities. In this regard, Paramount Chiefs, Senior Chiefs, Religious leaders, Traditional healers, and policy makers need to join hands in order to end harmful practices. This has been the song for the past decade but there seem to be very little change. All of us need to start acting differently. The period of doing things in a business as usual mode is over. We need to account to the children of Malawi,” she said.

Nkusa Nkhoma–This has a huge economic repercussion in the country–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyas Times

According to Nkusa Nkhoma, rising numbers of street connected children is another contemporary challenge Malawi is facing. She said this poses huge social and economic challenge to the country as the streets are becoming a breeding ground for gangs and criminal activities.

The Malawi Street Child Enumeration Survey of 2015 indicated that the numbers of children aged between 7 and 15, in the cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre were on the increase.

However, recent studies have established that numbers of street connected children is increasing every day as another survey showed that there are approximately 2,389 and 1,776 children living or working in the streets of Lilongwe and Blantyre respectively.

In Lilongwe, only 9 percent of these children live and sleep on the streets while, 65 percent of them go and sleep at their parents’ house; and a further 16 percent sleep at the house of another relative.

Similar figures can be observed in Blantyre as only 16 percent sleep on the streets, while 63 percent of the children sleep at their parents’ home and the remaining 13 percent sleep at another relatives’ home.

Nkusa Nkhoma said this signifies that there is little supervision from parents and guardians as to what their children are doing during the daylight hours of the day.

“This should be a call to all of us to work with parents and devise ways of preventing children from resorting to the streets in order to address their problems. The children are missing a lot in education, health, protection, proper growth and development, and they are deprived of their right to a proper childhood,” she said.

In her remarks, Save the Children Country Director Kim Koch said the Day of African Child presents an opportunity for governments and development partners to renew their on-going commitments towards improving the plight of children on this continent and lifting up their voices.

Koch said there is need for the stakeholders to “work together and we must work fast. Business as usual is not sufficient.”

“If we truly mean to realize children’s rights as provided for in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the UNCRC we must accelerate and consolidate our efforts. Much more important, this day seeks to give children themselves as rights holders an opportunity to hold us accountable on various commitments that are yet to be fulfilled. It is unfortunate that the children themselves are not physically present here today. However, we will still hear their voices, and there are many days ahead to lend our ears to them,” she said.

One of the participants, Tshiamo Mpangeni, who lives in Chilinde One in Lilongwe, described Day of African Child as important day as it provides them with an opportunity to present their grievances to government officials and other stakeholders.

Tshiamo, who is a Standard 7 learner at Chiwoko Full Primary School, demanded that courts should be giving stiffer punishments to perpetrators of violence and abuse of children’s rights.

“Most importantly, I wish to take this opportunity to appeal to the police to work with other agencies to get the Chinese national, Lu Ke, to book,” he said.

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