Malawi, 2 June 2013: Members of UNICEF’s Executive Board look at the impact of the organization's work in Malawi
An Executive Board delegation from UNICEF visited Malawi to learn more about how UNICEF programmes are helping improve the lives of women and children.
LILONGWE, Malawi, 2 May 2013 – A six-person delegation from UNICEF’s Executive Board visited Malawi from 8 to 12 April, led by His Excellency Wilfried Emvula, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations for Namibia. The purpose of the visit was to enable Executive Board members to gain a deeper understanding of the country context, as well as an overview of UNICEF’s partners and programmes.
A delegation from UNICEF’s Executive Board visited Malawi in April for a first-hand look at UNICEF partners and programmes. Watch in RealPlayer
Over the course of five days, the delegation travelled to five districts and saw UNICEF-supported work in the areas of child protection, health, education, and water and sanitation.
“Being here in Malawi gives us good feedback on how the money is used after filtering down from Headquarters in New York,” Mr. Emvula said following a visit with patients and staff at Kasungu District Hospital. “It enables us to put a face on the cold figures we are presented with, and that is invaluable.”
Assisting poor families
One of the programmes in focus was the Government’s social cash transfer programme. It focuses on the ultra-poor – those who live on approximately US$0.20 a day and have little earning potential, such as the elderly, young and disabled. Households receive a monthly cash supplement of between US$2 and $8. Although a seemingly small amount, the delegation heard how it has made a real difference to the lives of families.
In a village in Salima district, the delegation met 78-year-old Elemele Saulosi, who took on the role of full-time carer for her three grandchildren after her daughter passed away. She talked animatedly about how the social cash transfer programme had assisted her and her grandchildren.
“When I lost my husband years back, life was very hard, but now life has changed,” she explained. “I was able to buy goats and a door for my house, so now we feel more secure.”
Ms. Saulosi was also able to use the funds to buy food, clothes, school items and labour for her land. And she added that the programme had delivered something less tangible but equally important for her: “I feel I am more important now,” she said, smiling. “With money in my pocket I can hold my head high when I walk.”
Yifei Wang, third secretary at the Chinese Mission to the United Nations and representing Asia, said after the visit, “I am very impressed with the programme. It is focused on the ultra-poor, which is important, and it also integrates all areas of UNICEF’s work, such as education, protection, health and HIV/AIDS. So in that way, it is a crucial programme.”
Gender-based violence a concern
Another issue of particular concern was gender-based violence. In Mzuzu Central Hospital they were shown the beginnings of a ‘one-stop centre’, where hospital staff together with the police and justice departments are striving to provide streamlined, comprehensive and sensitive response services to victims of violence and sexual abuse. A state-of-the-art building to house the programme is currently under construction, with support from UNICEF.
Gillian Joseph, first secretary from the Antigua and Barbuda Mission, representing the Latin American and Caribbean States, was impressed by the visit.
“It’s a great starting point, and there still needs more work to be done to ensure all the services are well coordinated,” Ms. Joseph commented. “Taking this experience back to New York, I feel it’s given me a deeper understanding of the cultural aspects of gender-based violence.”
Hospital director Dr. Rose Nyirenda expressed her appreciation for the visit. “For them [the delegation] to come to our hospital to see what is happening is a motivation to our health workers, because they think that somebody out there appreciates them,” she said.
The delegation also visited a community-led total sanitation village in Dowa district, where women and children greeted the group with singing and dancing. The community has built simple latrines for every household and has now been declared ‘open defecation free’.
Improving the status of women and children
Kristina Bendtzen Rashid, a delegate from the Denmark mission, who had previously worked in Malawi, was pleased to see the changes that have taken place in the country.
“What impressed me this time is that the community is very much engaged, and women and children are central to this. That shows that the situation and status of women and children even at the local level has improved, and I think that is very positive.”
The group also met key government officials, including the President of Malawi, H.E. Joyce Banda, who commended UNICEF to the delegation. “The work of UNICEF in Malawi resonates very well with my vision of ending inequalities through the elimination of poverty,” she said. “Supporting the ultra-poor as the social cash transfer does is where my heart lies."
Members of UNICEF’s Executive Board regularly travel to different UNICEF programmes to gain insights and deeper understanding of the agency’s work and partners.