On the 16th of June every year, Malawi joins Africa in commemorating the Day of the African Child. Key to this day is the reminder that the best interest of children needs to be upheld and protected at all times. CHREAA and SALC, therefore, join the celebration; but most importantly wish to shine the spotlight on the plight of children in Malawi.
We acknowledge and appreciate the ongoing steps being taken toward the protection of children. For example, in 2018 the High Court held that children in conflict with the law should not be imprisoned but be referred to safety homes and reformatory centers. In 2021, the High Court further ruled that children ought not to be detained in police custody. Unfortunately, the country only has 7 safety homes. Out of these, only 2 are government-owned. Worse still, these homes are not child friendly. It is also widely documented that there are rights violations, contrary to the best interest of the child principle as mandated by the Constitution and international law. Instances continue to occur of children living and working on the streets being kept in custody for significant lengths of time both at prisons and police stations.
We urge the government to take greater initiative in protecting all children’s rights including those in conflict with the law and children connected to the streets. The government should establish more safety homes, make the existing ones child friendly, and liaise with law enforcement agencies to ensure that no child should ever be found in prison while safety homes are available.
We are determined and committed to ensuring full respect, protection, and promotion of children’s rights in Malawi. On this note, we wish all children a Happy Day of the African Child.