No money, no services

An inability to access adequate funding is crippling efforts by community-based organisations (CBOs) to help some of Malawi's most vulnerable children.

Monkey Bay, 125km east of the capital, Lilongwe, has some of the highest poverty and HIV-prevalence rates in the country, according to the government's National Statistics Office.

Yet a recent report by the Regional Network for Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa (EQUINET) said many CBOs in the area could not access government funding to support interventions targeted at orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC).

The number of children registered with Monkey Bay CBOs rose by more than 4,000 between 2007 and 2008 to a total of 10,800, an increase not matched by funding, the researchers found.

CBOs were expected to provide assistance with budgets equivalent to US$2.19 per registered child per year, and many registered children received no assistance at all.

"These children thus depend on other sources of support in the community, including from households headed by elderly and widowed people or other children," the report noted.


Interviews with OVC identified food - by a wide margin - as their chief concern, followed by access to clothing and school. They saw themselves as excluded from community and health services, and the report stressed the danger of commercial sex work as a means of meeting those needs.

Community organizations could apply for government funding by submitting project proposals to their local assemblies at district level, which then made recommendations to the National AIDS Commission (NAC), said Donald Makwakwa, programme officer for the Malawi Network of AIDS Service Organizations (MANASO), which provides technical support to CBOs.

He told IRIN/PlusNews that many grassroots bodies were aware of the process and could access technical assistance on proposal-drafting from a variety of district programmes, but even successful applications faced periodic funding shortages due to late allotments by NAC.

The report said 90 percent of CBOs had never received substantial funding, and most depended on local fundraising initiatives.

EQUINET recommended the widening of community social safety nets, introducing communal farming schemes, and income-generating projects to support OVC. It also called on the government directly to address the shortages in CBO funding, and improve social protection services.