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April 24, 2024

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e    Malawi   

Malawi, a landlocked country in southeastern Africa, is defined by its topography of highlands split by the Great Rift Valley and enormous Lake Malawi. The lake’s southern end falls within Lake Malawi National Park – sheltering diverse wildlife from colorful fish to baboons – and its clear waters are popular for diving and boating. Peninsular Cape Maclear is known for its beach resorts. ― Google

Capital: Lilongwe

Population: 19.13 million (2020) World Bank

President: Lazarus Chakwera

Currency: Malawian kwacha

Continent: Africa

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Rudolf Schwenk, UNICEF Representative in Malawi, addressed the media at a press briefing held on 7th March 2023 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. Schwenk informed the press that Malawi is facing its deadliest cholera outbreak in recorded history. The country is also grappling with a polio outbreak and ongoing COVID-19 cases, stretching the healthcare system beyond its limits. The children of Malawi are bearing the brunt of this crisis.

Cholera has spread to all 29 districts in Malawi, affecting more than 50,000 people and resulting in over 1,500 deaths. Of the infected, over 12,000 are children, and 197 children have died. Schwenk attributed the outbreak to the tropical storms Ana and Gombe that hit Malawi over a year ago, a lack of funding for water and sanitation infrastructure, and disrupted cholera prevention campaigns due to COVID-19. UNICEF is concerned that without immediate and adequate action, this outbreak will worsen during this year's peak rainy season. Schwenk also highlighted that as the planet warms, Malawi is likely to face worse climate-induced hazards such as stronger storms and droughts.

Schwenk revealed that an estimated 4.8 million children, or one in two children in the country, are in humanitarian need. By the end of March, over 213,000 children under five years of age are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition, with over 62,000 expected to be severely malnourished. A severely malnourished child is 11 times more likely to die from cholera than a well-nourished child, making cholera a death sentence for thousands of children in Malawi. Schwenk also expressed concern about negative coping mechanisms, an increase in violence in homes and communities, and the vulnerability of women and children during such crises.

UNICEF has been working with the Government of Malawi, the World Health Organization, and other partners since the first case was reported a year ago. UNICEF has provided training to response teams at all levels, equipment, essential supplies, life-saving drugs, safe water, and disseminated cholera prevention, treatment, and hygiene promotion messages in affected and cholera-prone areas. However, UNICEF is now short of funds and supplies.

Schwenk appealed for US$ 52.4 million to provide life-saving supplies, services, and technical support in water, sanitation, and hygiene; health and HIV; education; nutrition; child protection; and social protection. UNICEF also aims to integrate social behavior change interventions across all sectors. Schwenk emphasized the need for significant investments in health, water, and sanitation infrastructure to prevent future outbreaks of cholera.

In conclusion, Schwenk stated that the children of Malawi are experiencing difficult times, and it is UNICEF's responsibility to support them. UNICEF's appeal for US$ 52.4 million will enable them to provide essential services, supplies, and technical support across various sectors, ultimately saving lives.

OCHA coordinates the global emergency response to save lives and protect people in humanitarian crises.

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