The life of a child- living in Chilmbe
During our recent trip to Malawi I met a group of children – from a distance, they looked like a merry band of brothers, however as I got closer I saw these children were on their way home from work. The eldest must have been about ten years old.
As the boys passed by me, one waving a long stick which he used to control his cattle, and the other carrying a large dusty bag on his head, this little boy carrying a hoe on his back stopped and smiled. I pointed to the hoe and I gestured for him to show it to me. His friends gathered around and laughed, puzzled by this interest I had in what was essentially an everyday object to them. It was made with a child in mind.
I thought about these boys and about the education system which was failing them. I reflected on a classroom in the local school which I had visited. It was literally packed with over 150 children sitting side by side on the floor, the teacher struggling to teach them. I recalled the meeting with the head teacher, and how his bloodshot eyes spoke of the stress he faced managing his school without sufficient classrooms or books.
I thought about the boy’s mother. Having asked a group of 30 parents during our Early Years graduation service about their schooling, and only eight had raised their hand to indicate they had finished primary school, I wondered if she had dreams for her son or had she simply given up hope of him getting an education.
After seeing for myself the challenges facing children in this community I am all the more thrilled to see for myself the impact of our work as it happens on the ground. I visited Shines After School group which is our most recent project at Shine Village center. Funds raised by Shine New Zealand supporters have enabled the team to supply the children with Malawian curriculum text books alongside other reading books donated back in 2015. Through these and other resources provided through our supporters, we are addressing the need for extra tuition in the area. Headed by Anthony Zidana and Pastor Lino, this group is becoming very popular, with over 45 children attending. The group is free to all and Beatrice and Sheila, who help teach the younger children are now offering one and one support. We are beginning to see the children grow in confidence and they even help the younger children in the Early Years groups.
In a region were just 4% of children enroll in secondary school and only 34% of the secondary school teachers are qualified, educating children remains one of the greatest challenges. The cost of tuition fees is often too high for children in our area, however, support is available to those with a good attitude to their studies. Shine Bursary scheme has helped over 30 students some of whom are now in college. We are always looking to support new students if you would like to help get in touch!
In a population of approximately 16.4 million people, Malawi has about 1.4 million orphans.
UNICEF defines an Orphan “as a child under the age of 18 years who has lost one or both parents through death.” Many of which are vulnerable, hence lack “proper care and support and basic necessities of life such as food, love and shelter. ”
What challenges do Malawi’s orphans face?
There are many threats that orphans face each day as a result of the countless effects that accompany the neglect of poverty. Diseases such HIV/AIDS and Malaria are endemic. In addition, the disregarded children are malnourished which not only results in stunted growth physically but also impacts their ability to attend and participate in school. The lack of well-equipped healthcare facilities is another challenge faced by the neglected children. 180,000 children in Malawi are living with HIV
*source Malawi Demographics Profile 2016*
Life in Zomba: Shine Relief’s area of operation
HIV/AIDS in Zomba The HIV/AIDS pandemic is one of the greatest health problems –across Malawi, it has orphaned more than half a million children already and it is amongst the most significant challenge to development being faced in the Kuntumanji County of the Zomba District – where Shine Relief Trust is currently based. In a country where there is only one doctor for every 100,000 people, the effects of such sparsely distributed healthcare are felt heavier in a district where the estimated HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is considerably higher at 17.8% than the national average estimated at 14%.
Malaria in Zomba Malaria is one of the greatest dangers for children in sub-Saharan Africa, killing one child every minute. Malaria is plaguing the residents of the Zomba District and accounts for one-third of all morbidity cases and for long over a decade, has been the leading cause of outpatient morbidity in the entire district.There’s currently no malaria vaccine. If not treated, malaria can be deadly. Shine provides mosquito nets help to help keep our children and their families safe, standing waters from floods present a greater risk as mosquitoes easily carry the disease.
Healthcare in Zomba Much of the population of Kuntumanji has no access to healthcare facilities as there exists no general District hospital in an area spanning about 2,580km2. Hence children who are fortunate enough to be able to endure a day’s walk to the nearby city of Zomba will be able to access the Zomba Central Hospital. Though a day’s walk can be cut shorter to a 40 minute drive – which is still a considerable amount of time to access a medical facility – transportation for many Kuntumanji residents, especially children is limited.
With only 6% of orphans and vulnerable children receiving medical support; life expectancy is again lower than the national average in the district where Shine Relief Trust is located. In 2006 it was calculated at 43.7 years for males and 46.6 years for females, resulting in an average life expectancy of 45,1 years at birth. Despite Kuntumanji County’s population of 72,889, it is served by three poorly equipped health centres. One of them is the Bimbi Clinic which currently serves about 23,124 people –located in our project area – is under-equipped to suitably cater to the needs of the sick. The Senior Chief of Kuntumanji has described the conditions at Bimbi Health Centre as “very bad and pathetic” in 2014 after he witnessed it operating devoid of beds, mattresses, clean running water and other key basic hospital amenities, talk less of more sophisticated equipment. Given all the host of factors discussed above, it will come as no surprise that the infant mortality rate is significantly high in this district with 9.8% of the households reporting at least one death in 2002 and 2003.
The Effects on Children
The education of the neglected children in Zomba The environment places dire strains on orphaned children and currently, only 6% of orphans receive education support, leaving the remaining 94% dependently ignorant of the dangers that face them. Of the 6% of orphans who do receive education, many are unable to attend school due to the copious household demands required from them by their existing relatives who they remain dependent on.
Malnutrition Most people think of malnutrition as not having enough to eat, but for many of the world’s hungry people, the problem is that they get too few of the minerals and vitamins that they need to thrive, physically and mentally. Malnutrition often starts in the womb. Malnourished mothers give birth to malnourished children, creating a cycle that continues for generations. We need to break this cycle, by ensuring that the hungry have the right foods at the right time. If children don’t get the right food in the first two years of life, the damage done to their physical growth is irreversible. Stunted physical development is evident throughout the district amongst half of all children under 5 yrs old due to lack of proper nutrition and limited access to healthcare.
Maize is the staple food in Malawi. One large bag of maize feeds a family of five for one month. But there is a long, hard haul involved in getting the corn to the mill before the family can put meals on the table. The Recent drought has left many with only one bag of maize.
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