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MALAWI—In early April, Malawi recorded its first COVID-19 case and in response the government declared a national state of disaster. Yet for UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, preparations for COVID-19 started well in advance.

UNFPA has supported the Government of Malawi with $100,000 through the Health Services Joint Fund to procure essential health equipment for the health system response to the pandemic. The equipment is mainly for infection prevention, realizing that health workers need protection when serving pregnant women and all women of reproductive age.

The government has an estimated budget of US$213 million (MK 157 billion) for the COVID-19 response and has made an initial injection of MK2.5 billion. Yet more funds will be needed as the number of infected people rises.

The government has put measures in place to curb the spread of the disease, such as banning gatherings of more than 100 people, as well as social gatherings such as weddings. These and other orders have necessitated a change in approach to how UNFPA works, including enhanced collaboration with the government, other partners and the donor community.

We have reprogrammed most of our projects to reflect the COVID-19 reality on the ground.

“We have reprogrammed most of our projects to reflect the COVID-19 reality on the ground. For example, we have streamlined COVID-19 awareness messages in all our activities and the same applies to our partners. We are supporting the government in drafting guidelines for managing women in the antenatal, delivery and postnatal periods,” says Young Hong, UNFPA Representative in Malawi.

UNFPA is a member of the national health cluster committee, which provides input and guidance relating to sexual and reproductive health and rights. “We have identified the gaps that exist in managing pregnant mothers during delivery and after birth. We realized that the widely distributed information, education and communication (IEC) materials did not include anything specific to pregnant women,” Ms. Hong says.

Currently, UNFPA is working with the government to develop IEC materials and guidelines specific to managing pregnant women before and during delivery, and in the postnatal period, in line with WHO guidelines.

In addition, UNFPA has supported the government in the production of the song Corona, to raise awareness on the virus. The song, which has become a national hit, is a collaborative project between UNFPA and the artists Piksy and Taqwa, who are youth champions for the Fund.

- Joseph Scott