Successive droughts and failed crops in Malawi have left people in the grips of a hunger crisis. Desperate to feed her son, 18-year-old Shamim resorted to selling sex. UNICEF and partners are working to support others like her and to develop longer term solutions to protect children and adolescents. We were fortunate to team up with UNICEF to produce this wonderful informative short.
Shamim is not the only girl in her village who resorted to selling sex. Other girls were sold by their families for marriage in return for a dowry. “The last two years have been incredibly hard for the majority of families in Malawi who rely on subsistence farming to survive,” says UNICEF Emergency Specialist Willis Ouma Agutu. “After successive droughts and failed harvests, people have been forced into desperate measures like selling sex and child marriage, which they wouldn’t normally contemplate. We can see that as hunger increases, these kind of negative coping strategies also increase.” UNICEF is working to meet the needs of children affected by the hunger crisis. We identify and treat cases of malnutrition, provide safe water and sanitation, immunize children, protect them from abuse and help them continue their education. The project with Plan and Ujamaa aims to protect girls from sexual abuse and child marriage, provide psychosocial support to victims, and keep girls in school. It is run out of 61 schools in Malawi, benefitting over 3,000 children. UNICEF is also working on longer term solutions to the problems girls like Shamim face. “We share the issues they report anonymously with community leaders, including the village chiefs and faith groups,” says child protection worker Cassim Saiti. “They have developed local bylaws and an action plan to protect children. Now, if anyone in the district is having sex with a girl under 18…they will be reported to the police.”