Written by  Simeon Boyce

When you are buying goods that are packaged in reused plastic bottles such as water and thobwa have you ever thought of the people who are behind the collection of these bottles for reuse? 

A dumpsite where Chitsanzo collects bottles A dumpsite where Chitsanzo collects bottles

Well MBC has established that they are children who are aged between seven and 14. These children are exposed to various physical abuses and health hazards and they mostly miss out on school. 


This is Chitsanzo Mailosi, not his real name, the 14-year-old boy shoulders the burden of supporting himself, his parents and his three siblings at BCA Hills in Blantyre.


On daily basis at 2 am and in the company of four other children, he leaves his home and comes here to Limbe where he goes about his usual business of collecting used bottles for sale. 


“I start from home at around 2 am, it’s always dark at this time but I don’t fear anything because I come with my friends," says Chitsanzo.


With this as his full-time job, it is obvious that his future is shrouded in doom as he has no time for school.  Again his life is in danger as mostly he is found at dumping sites along Limbe River where apart from exposing himself to sharp objects such as glass the river is highly polluted due to wastes and vendors who ply their trade in Limbe Market use it as a toilet.  


After eight hours of hard labour, Chitsanzo takes the used bottles to his customer. She doesn’t pay for every bottle that Chitsanzo brings as others are discarded, depending on quality. 


“On a good day, I make at least K1500. This amount is enough to buy maize flour for msima at home, ” said Chitsanzo.


Rhoda Mzimu who usually buys bottles from Chitsanzo, says many young boys are into this trade and shares what they go through. 


She said: “These boys meet a lot of challenges which puts their health in danger, some of the bottles are collected in swamps and other places not friendly for young people. They even touch faecal matter  in the process, but they have no choice, they have to feed their families.”  


Child rights activist Caleb Ng’ombo says what Chitsanzo is doing is against child rights which are enshrined in the Child Care Protection Justice Act of 2010.


“Such children are deprived of the right to education, certainly, they miss out on education. They are even exposed to environments that are harmful to their undeveloped bodies.” Ng’ombo said.


The Act says parents are put on the first line of defence to protect children from abuse and hazards. This includes looking after their health and ensuring that they are going to school and they have a right to play. 


Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati says the government has started enforcing the Child Protection Justice Act by arresting parents who are not complying with child rights.


“Those who are putting children in places where they are not safe, where they can learn bad behaviours like street children. The law stipulates that these people must be jailed for a minimum of 10 years.” Kaliati said.


Malawi is a signatory of the convention on the rights of a child and development blueprint 2063  talks of the need to ensure that marginalised and vulnerable people like children are cushioned and provided with basic social needs such as education. 


It remains to be seen if vulnerable children like Chitsanzo Mailosi will be rescued from this predicament and bring hope to others for a better life.



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