The capital of Malawi, Lilongwe, has around one million inhabitants. Although the city is an important economic and commercial hub, poverty remains high and living conditions are extremely harsh for many people. The local population is highly malnourished and many people in the region live in informal settlements without access to proper sanitation or clean drinking water.
Children are particularly vulnerable as malnutrition limits their growth and lack of access to clean water puts them at risk of contracting common diseases.
In addition, the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to be a challenge in Lilongwe.
Since 1994, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Lilongwe.
As in other parts of Malawi, the HIV/AIDS pandemic is a major challenge in Lilongwe. Efforts to combat the virus in the country have been intensified in recent years.
Nevertheless, prevalence rates in the urban areas - especially in the capital - are up to 17%, which is significantly higher than the national average. A majority of those infected are children. Many other children lose parental care due to the virus and are left to fend for themselves in the harsh living conditions of Lilongwe.
The population density in Lilongwe is high and as the urban population continues to grow, the pressure on basic infrastructure increases. In fact, about 3 out of 4 people in the city live in informal settlements and the majority of them are severely affected by poverty. People often live in shacks assembled from scraps of wood and plastic, without proper sanitation and without access to clean water. People drink untreated water from unprotected sources and their immunity to common diseases such as diarrhoea and common childhood illnesses is low.