Orphans in Malawi: prevalence, outcomes, and targeting of services

Type Working Paper - International Food Policy Research Institute
Title Orphans in Malawi: prevalence, outcomes, and targeting of services
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2005
Page numbers 0-0
URL http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/sharma2005.pdf
As in many Sub-Saharan countries, the issue of orphan-care has risen to the top of social protection agenda in Malawi, where the prevalence of orphaned children has dramatically increased because of early deaths of parents infected by the HIV/AIDS virus. According to the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (MPRSP) prepared by the Government of Malawi in 2002, HIV infection rates in the 15-49 age group was at around 15 percent nationally (GOM 2002). The paper reported that about 70,000 children become orphans every year, adding to the already large number of orphans, estimated at about 850,000.
Orphans are a vulnerable group in any socioeconomic setting simply because they are deprived of one or both of their primary caregivers The level of vulnerability they face, however, increases significantly with the level of poverty (Subbarao and Coury 2004). Even when one of the parents is surviving, the loss of income due to the death of the other parent can have a serious negative impact on resources allocated to children.
This is especially so when the surviving parent is the mother, who is additionally burdened by gender-based inequities prevalent in most societies.
In cases where orphaned children are placed in the homes of relatives or extended families, weaker altruistic motives of the non-parent caregivers can possibly result in curtailment of essential consumption expenditures and/or investments in the orphaned child, especially when the receiving household itself is very poor and/or compensation arrangements are lacking. For example, orphaned children may be discriminated against in intrahousehold distribution of food or provision of health-care services. Lack of altruistic motives also means that non-parent caregivers have fewer incentives to incur expenses of sending orphaned children to school. This may lead either to outright withdrawal or lower levels of educational achievement among orphaned children.
Thus, whether living with a surviving parent or with non-parent caregivers, “erosion of human capital is probably the biggest risk orphans and vulnerable children face in much of Africa” (Subbarao and Coury 2004, p.14). This is a serious concern, as underinvestment in health and education not only leads to serious depravation and hardship for the child, but it also depresses on future lifetime incomes.

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