Aids Orphans in Malawi

child having a bath Lilongwe Malawi

The situation for children in Malawi is still dire, according to a report from UNICEF in January 2006. The main causes are a deadly combination of chronic poverty, poor weather, a bad harvest, a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and an outbreak of cholera. Malawi has an extremely high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which affects an estimated 16% of people aged 15 to 49 and accounts for about 70% of hospital deaths. Half a million children are so-called AIDS orphans which is half of all orphans. Many are now cared for by relatives who are already under economic hardships.

HIV/AIDS affects nearly a million people, including 83,000 children. Nearly a third of infected mothers pass the virus to their babies. Half of Malawi’s million orphans have lost one or both parents to AIDS. In 2004 only 4,000 people were receiving anti-retroviral drugs. A year later this had increased to only 33,000.

SOS Children has been working in Malawi since 1992 caring for orphaned and abandoned children and their families. Today the emphasis more and more is on preventing abandonment and strengthening the family.


The SOS Medical Centre was opened in 1997 to provide holistic health care for the people living in the local community. The medical centre works with the Ministry of Health and other relevant organisations and has two distinct programme - a clinic and a children’s rehabilitation programme - designed to meet the needs of the local community.

Since 2003, the medical centre has focussed more on the issues relating to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. SOS Children has expanded its services to provide the following:

  • Voluntary counselling and testing, both in the clinic itself and in the local community.
  • Education sessions regarding HIV/AIDS
  • ARV treatment for people over 13 years of age
  • Nutrition support for people living with HIV/AIDS
  • Education brochures regarding HIV/AIDS
  • Group counselling sessions
  • Couple counselling sessions
  • Prophylactic treatment
  • Condom distribution SOS Children also works with other organisations that provide home-based care
  • Prevention of mother to child transmission
  • ARV treatment for children under 13 years of age and complicated cases

The Children’s Rehabilitation Programme offers physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and special education to children with disabilities. A significant portion of these children are HIV positive. Since the progression of HIV/AIDS is much faster in children than in adults we are often the first to refer parents of possibly HIV infected children for counselling and testing.

In Lilongwe SOS Children works with a number of organisations including:

  • DACC (District Aids Coordinating Committee)
  • National AIDS Commission
  • Home Based Care Network
  • NAPHAM (National Association of People living with HIV/Aids in Malawi
  • MANASO (Malawi Network of AIDS Service Organizations)
  • MANET (Malawi AIDS Network)
  • District Health Office of the Ministry of Health and Population
  • Population Services International
  • ABC Community Clinic
  • Kamuzu Central Hospital, Bottom Hospital and various other clinics and health centres
  • Lilongwe Diocese Home Based Care
  • Joint Rehabilitation Committee for Lilongwe

The SOS Social Centre, through its Home Based Care programme identifies and supports terminally ill patients. The aim is to enable them to live longer so their children can stay longer with their parents or guardians. It also helps to prepare children for the eventual death of their parents. Many receive anti-retroviral drugs and are able to return to a normal life and participate in the care of their children again. As a result of the large number of people involved in the Home Based Care programme, a strong local HIV/AIDS Support Group emerged. This comprises of men and women positively living with HIV/AIDS.

Mr Chituwi Regains His Health

sponsor a child in Malawi

Mr. Bernard Chituwi* is a fifty two year old man with a wife and ten children, who lives near the SOS Children's Village Lilongwe. Mr Chituwi heard on the radio that the SOS Medical Centre Lilongwe has both the equipment and the staff to provide testing for HIV as well as pre- and post-test counselling. The medical centre is also able to treat opportunistic infections and prescribe anti-retroviral drugs should a test prove positive for the virus.

In August 2004, Mr Chituwi became ill. He had persistent fevers, dizziness and was very lethargic. In October, he decided to visit the clinic, where he was seen by our clinician. Mr Chituwi was referred to our counselling and testing service. He was tested and was found to be HIV positive. The clinician found him to be suitable for anti-retroviral therapy.

At the beginning of November, he started his treatment. After the two weeks, during a follow up session with the clinician, Mr Chituwi said that he felt much better, the fevers had subsided and his appetite improved. Mr Chituwi continues taking anti-retroviral drugs and is careful not to get re-infected or to infect others.

Mr Chituwi says, "I appreciate very much what SOS Medical Center Lilongwe and its staff have been able to do for me. They have saved my life. Without them I would have been six feet under the ground and forgotten. Now I am able to work and feed my family, pay school fees for my children. I can participate in community development activities in my area, I can go out to relax at football matches, wedding ceremonies etc. I really appreciate everything that has happened since I first visited the clinic".


Since 2004, the SOS Social Centre in Mzuzu has been coordinating an outreach programme in the local community. It reaches up to 1,500 people per year and provides them with school fees and materials, counselling, psychosocial support, improved housing and access to basic medical treatment.

If you interested in helping the situation in Malawi you might like to consider how to sponsor a child in Malawi.