UNICEF Malawi's New Year Message

Unicef Malawi

In 2021, amid the global COVID-19 pandemic which has affected economies, health systems, education and other services, UNICEF maintained its strong and strategic support to the Government of Malawi in ensuring continued access to lifesaving interventions and essential services for women and children. UNICEF Malawi Representative Rudolf Schwenk looks back at some of the highlights of 2021 and prospects for 2022.

Over the past 12 months, UNICEF supported the provision of maternal, newborn and infant health and nutrition services as well as access to education and child protection services across the country. As a result, the neonatal mortality rate declined from 35 to 26 deaths per 1,000 live births while infant mortality rate declined from 42 to 40 deaths per 1,000 live births.

UNICEF’s contribution to systems strengthening for long lasting impacts was also evident in the high rate of deliveries at health facilities which is at 92 per cent. This was largely due to the institution of Quality Improvement Teams at all levels of health delivery systems. 
Additionally, stunting has declined from 37 per cent to 35 per cent and the minimum acceptable diet for children under five has improved from 30 per cent to 39 per cent. Over 600,000 children were protected from diseases like measles and pneumonia under the routine immunisation programme.

The arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in Malawi in March 2021 was an important milestone in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF has played a central role in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and supplies, through the COVAX facility and together with WHO and other partners.

Over one million people have been vaccinated to date and we are supporting the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 express vaccination exercise which has helped bring COVID-19 vaccines to more people. In collaboration with various key partners- the Government of Malawi, development partners, UN agencies, NGOs and communities, UNICEF helped to keep over 2.4 million children in school through the provision of integrated services such as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), nutrition, scholarships, and school furniture.

As part of a joint UN project, UNICEF constructed three girls’ hostels under the Spotlight Initiative at a total cost of approximately US$ 1 million. We renovated Mpondamwala primary school in Lilongwe, also constructing news classrooms, teachers’ house, library and toilets.  In addition, we supported the installation of solar power in 20 health facilities and 20 Teacher’s Development Centres.

Over 600,000 children benefitted from the Government’s Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP), which UNICEF supports. This enabled them to stay in school and buy food and other necessities. We also supported the Government of Malawi to develop new urban cash transfer interventions to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations, which benefitted over 300,000 children across the country in urban settings.
UNICEF supported the installation of 14 solar-powered water supply systems in schools, communities and health centres. We also worked with the Northern Region Water Board to procure and install 283 prepaid water meters at water kiosks in low-income urban areas helping to sustain access to safe water by disadvantaged communities.

Because community engagement is central to our work, we facilitated dialogue with faith leaders and traditional leaders on COVID-19 prevention, ending child marriage and keeping children in school. 
And of course, empowering children, adolescents and young people is something we at UNICEF hold close to our hearts.

We appointed three Youth Advocates, who are helping to raise awareness about issues that impact children and young people in Malawi, as well as climate change. We partnered with universities to build capacities of young people in research, evaluation and knowledge management. At the African Drone and Data Academy, 207 students were trained in drone and data technology, equipping them with vital skills for the 21st century.
To commemorate World Children’s day in November, UNICEF and the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare hosted regional child-led consultations in the north, central and southern region. Children discussed issues that matter most to them and interacted with duty bearers, including members of parliament. The report from these consultations, titled “Voices of Children in Malawi” was presented to the Minister of Gender during the last Youth Parliament meeting.

We ended the year with the much-anticipated release of the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) by the National Statistical Office. The MICS helps us track progress on various outcomes for children in health, nutrition, education, WASH, child protection and social protection. Overall, the results showed slight improvements in areas including child mortality, child marriages, malnutrition and early childhood development. Furthermore, there are significant improvements registered in child labour and birth registration. 

We therefore venture into 2022, armed with evidence about what is working for children, and which children are lacking which services. The data tells us what to focus on and can help us make better investment decisions for every child in Malawi. It is our hope that all partners use the evidence generated by the MICS to inform their interventions for every child in Malawi.