Together against COVID-19

UN supports development and implementation of Malawi’s COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan

Rebecca Phwitiko
UN Resident Coordinator Ms Maria Jose Torres at the launch of the plan.
© UNRCO/ 2020/ Phillip Pemba
05 May 2020

All over the world, so much has changed in the lives of children, men and women in the last few months. New routines are developing with many parents and children forced to stay at home. In Malawi, over five million children and young people were pulled out of school to prevent the spread of a deadly virus that has almost brought the world to a standstill with over 3.3 million confirmed cases globally and about 239,000 deaths as of 4 May 2020.

What started as a problem thousands of miles away from Malawi, is now a global emergency of an unprecedented scale.  The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has seen people’s livelihoods disappear, health systems buckle, schools and borders closed and families struggling to stay afloat. While the spread of the virus has slowed in some countries, its social and economic impact are taking a heavy toll on the countries. And in many places, it comes at the expense of the most vulnerable children, who are forced to stay at home due to school closures and restrictions on social gatherings and movement.

Supporting the Government and the people of Malawi

As the virus spread around the world, and eventually into Africa, the UN in Malawi supported the Government of Malawi to prepare and prevent the spread of COVID-19. A National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan was developed, in time for Malawi’s first case which was confirmed on 2 April 2020. Since then 40 more cases have appeared by 4 May, including some local transmission.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Malawi Maria Jose Torres says the national COVID-19 response plan is a result of great effort from different coordination clusters in which UN agencies play a key role.

“I hope this plan will strengthen our collaboration as we fight to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in Malawi. As we do this, it is important to pay attention to the most vulnerable people, including women and girls who suffer the most in such situations,” she explained.

Minister of Health, Hon. Jappie Mhango, at the launch of the plan.
© UNRCO/2020/ Phillip Pemba
Minister of Health, Hon. Jappie Mhango, at the launch of the plan.

Minister of Health, Jappie Mhango, said the plan was worth US$203 million (MWK150 billion) of which US$9.1 million (MK6.5 billion) was available, leaving a resource gap of US$193.7 million (MK 142.7 billion).

Said Mhango: “I, therefore, appeal to the donor community, humanitarian partners, the private sector, all stakeholders working in disaster risk management or health sector, the media and the general public to support the resource mobilization process and implementation of this plan.

“Covid-19 is amongst us, let us all fight the further spread of the pandemic like wounded soldiers salvaging their lives in a war-torn area.”

Bracing for COVID-19’s multiple impact

Beyond the health impact and the loss of human life, the COVID-19 crisis has had a heavy impact on children’s safety, well-being and future. The National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan is therefore timely, along with measures to support children to continue learning at home while schools remain closed in Malawi.

Learning from home at Chilinde in Lilongwe: 15-year-old Monalisa Malunga, determined to keep learning despite school closures
© UNICEF Malawi/2020/HD Plus
Learning from home at Chilinde in Lilongwe: 15-year-old Monalisa Malunga, determined to keep learning despite school closures

The plan is in three phases; the immediate emergency and rapid response actions; mid-term plans which include teaching health workers, teachers, children and communities about COVID-19 prevention and management; and the final phase that focuses on long-term actions including provision of cash transfers to the poorest families recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

As part of the immediate response, UNICEF is procuring supplies including medicines and equipment for treatment of COVID-19 as well as critical WASH supplies (buckets, soap and chlorine). UNICEF is working in collaboration with other UN entities in Malawi that are also playing a central role in the implementation of the COVID-19 response plan in the country.

A hundred opinion leaders have been oriented to disseminate COVID-19 prevention and response messages to communities. Assiyatu Lipenga from the Women’s desk at Muslim Association of Malawi participated in the COVID 19 orientations. “I have talked to hundreds of women in some Muslim groups, teachers and village chiefs in Zomba and Blantyre about how to prevent COVID 19 and keep their families safe,” she says.

Asiyatu Lipenga, pictured after a COVID -19 orientation.
© UNICEF Malawi/2020
Asiyatu Lipenga, pictured after a COVID -19 orientation.

Through the COVID 19 orientations and community engagement through radio, printed IEC materials, electronic and social media, the UN is also supporting Government of Malawi to address misinformation, myths and rumors that have cropped up. Over eight million people have received COVID-19 prevention messages through various media channels.