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Malawi Assessment: The impact of HIV/AIDS on household economy in two villages in Salima district


John Seaman & Celia Petty, with James Acidri

Save the Children

February 2005

SARPN acknowledges the SCFUK website as the source of this document -
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A Study conducted in September 2004


This is the third in a series of studies undertaken in southern Africa, with the aim of improving understanding of the relationship between HIV/AIDS, poverty and food security1. The earlier studies were carried out in Swaziland and Mozambique in 2003. In one of these studies, Swaziland, an attempt was made to estimate the impact of HIV/AIDS on individual household economies. It was found that although the impact was negative, and for some households catastrophic, the average size of the impact was comparatively small relative to the effect of other economic fluctuations, chiefly because many of the people affected were under employed or unemployed. It was also found that many of the commonly used indicators of HIV/AIDS vulnerability (for example, the presence of orphans in the household, chronic illness, the proportion of available land cultivated etc) provided a poor guide to a more objective estimate of need. However, both the Swaziland and Mozambique studies were located in countries and communities that were, by the standards of rural southern Africa, comparatively affluent. The Malawi study was carried out in Salima district, which has a recent history of famine2, high levels of poverty and a lack of off farm employment options, as well as a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS.3

The aim of this study was to inform the wider debate around effective programming for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) by

  • exploring whether there were differences in the relationship between orphans, poverty and food security in a poorer setting than the two earlier studies.

  • demonstrating a practical methodology for field research and data analysis that provides reliable, quantitative descriptions of household economy and demography in extremely poor, HIV affected communities.

  • modelling a range of interventions and their impact on poor households (including households with and without orphans).
This report presents a summary of the main findings of the study. A number of issues, including the choice of interventions to more effectively reduce levels of poverty and vulnerability and the implications of different targeting methods, will be treated in greater depth, and comparisons made with the findings of the other two studies, in a future paper.

  1. HIV/AIDS and household economy in a Highveld Swaziland community (Seaman J, Petty C with Narangui H. SC UK March 2004) A rural trading community in Manica province, Mozambique: the impact of HIV/AIDS on household economy (Petty C, Sylvester K, Seaman J. SC UK March 2004)
  2. Distress migration from rural areas to Salima town occurred in 2002; there were cholera deaths among the displaced and malnutrition rates of 19% were recorded
  3. HIV prevalence rates in Salima range from 13%-25% (Salima Socio-economic profile Republic of Malawi 2002) . HIV prevalence in the Swaziland site was 38% and the Mozambique site was around 21%

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