June 18 2014 Conference kicks-off Care for ME! in Malawi Conference highlights failure to implement UN guidelines for care of children; 'Drumming Together for Change', a new report on alternative care realities in sub-Saharan African countries, released. The conference on alternative child care opened with a literal 'drum to action'. Photo: Joel Feyerherm 18 June 2014, Lilongwe, Malawi - SOS Children’s Villages Malawi hosted a major regional conference today, bringing together global experts on alternative child care to discuss new research findings and turn the spotlight on standards for children's alternative care in African countries. The conference also marked the national launch of SOS Children´s Villages' Care for ME! campaign in Malawi. Care for ME! was started by SOS Children´s Villages in 2012 as a global campaign to foster new research on alternative child care and to advocate in countries worldwide for the human rights of children without parental care. The Malawi conference and campaign launch turned the focus on sub-Saharan African countries, including Malawi, and featured the release of Drumming Together for Change, a new report that highlights worrying developments in the alternative care systems in numerous African countries. Produced through a partnership between the University of Malawi, CELCIS at the University of Strathclyde (UK) and SOS Children´s Villages, the report is based on evidence gathered through national assessments of eight Sub-Saharan Africa countries: Benin, Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Drumming Together for Change highlights “serious inadequacies in the services aimed at preventing the separation of children from their families, providing appropriate alternative care, and protecting children from harm.” The report sounds a call for change: “We will be drumming with different rhythms, but together these rhythms, in all their syncopation, must be heard and felt as a collective call for positive, real change in the lives of the most vulnerable members of our societies.” Conference attendee Dr Mary Shawa, Malawi´s Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, answers questions from press and attendees. Photo: Joel Feyerherm Spotlight on Malawi SOS Malawi used the conference to highlight new findings about the care system in their own country, one of the world´s poorest nations: Over 1 million children in Malawi are orphaned. For many of these children their alternative care is often inadequate. Over 6,000 children are living in child care institutions or orphanages; most of which lack minimum quality standards, are not properly registered, and are not adequately monitored by government. Over 2.4 million children in Malawi are growing up in violent homes; over 2 million children in Malawi could be classified as ultra-poor; and over 1.4 million children in Malawi are involved in some form of child labor. Recommendations from SOS Malawi include: The family remains the best place for a child to grow. Families without adequate means to take care of their children should therefore be supported in order for them to live in dignity and fulfill their parental responsibilities. Children living in various forms of alternative care should be adequately supported and their well-being frequently monitored. Alternative care should always be in the best interest of the child.