Support for Elderly in Malawi Declining Because of HIV/AIDS, Poverty, Government Report Says
A recent government report -- titled Social Protection and Ageing in Malawi and conducted by Zifa Kazeze, formerly of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa -- says that Malawi's elderly population is seeing less care and support from their children and communities as the impact of HIV/AIDS and a weakening economy changes family structures in the country, IRIN News reports. The government plans to release social grants to address this growing burden on the elderly population.
At the beginning of 2008, 11.9% of the country's adult population was living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS. Meanwhile, 13% of Malawi's children under age 18 are orphaned, primarily as a result of HIV/AIDS. IRIN News reports that because HIV/AIDS has had a major impact on the young adult generation, many orphans are in the care of their grandparents -- who often do not have economic stability and are unable to take care of both their own needs and the needs of their grandchildren. According to HelpAge International -- a global network of not-for-profit organizations that promotes the rights of older people -- between 50% to 60% of orphans in Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe live with their grandparents.
According to a 2003 report from Malawi's government, 48% of respondents either knew or heard about the abuse of an older person. "In the past, the elderly in Malawi used to depend on the economic and social support of their children and the community. With increased socio-economic difficulties and changing family ties, children fail to look after their ageing parents," the report said. The report also highlighted how older populations contribute to the socio-economic development of Malawi, adding, "It is important, therefore, that the implications of ageing issues in Malawi are understood, especially the challenges older persons face, and to respond to the challenges and opportunities of ageing."
Retired state employees in Malawi receive a pension fund, but 83% of the population lives in rural areas and receives no social protection. The report said, "There is therefore a need for a non-contributory pension as a significant component of old age income security." Recently, the Malawi government began a social cash transfer program -- piloted in July 2006 in the Mchinji District -- that provides a monthly cash subsidy to the poorest 10% of the country's households. The program -- which as of March 2008 had benefitted about 12,000 households -- found that elderly people headed most of the households and cared for young children, with no household members between ages 19 and 64, IRIN News reports. The program was funded by The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, with assistance from the World Bank, the U.K. Department for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (IRIN News, 11/11).