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UN in Malawi Launches Emergency Appeal for COVID-19 Response

Data show about 70 percent of Malawans live below the poverty line. The UN wants to target primarily them in its COVID-19 mitigation efforts. (Lameck Masina/VOA)

The United Nations has launched an emergency appeal in Malawi, one of Africa's poorest nations, for funding to help the country cope with the coronavirus.

The U.N. resident coordinator for Malawi, Maria Jose Torres, said $140 million is needed to support the country's preparedness and response for the next six months.

Malawi has so far confirmed 41 infections and three deaths from the coronavirus.

Torres said the appeal, made with non-governmental organizations, will target the most vulnerable to the pandemic, about 7.5 million people, nearly half of the country's population.

“The reason why we are making this appeal is we don’t need to have a peak of the crisis in Malawi, at the same time to mitigate the second impacts of the COVID-19. So, any contribution to these appeals are going to be doing these two things; first saving lives, second, to prevent suffering of the most vulnerable,” said Torres.

Last month, Malawi’s government launched a separate appeal for $194 million to fund its National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan.

According to United Nations data, around 70% of the population in Malawi lives below the international poverty line of $1.90 per day.

Torres said women will get special consideration when financial aid is distributed.

“We know that in situation of COVID, where there is loss of income and there are less possibilities of families to cope with the impact, women and girls are normally more exposed to abuse and violence. And we are discussing that with national institutions to make sure that we all play a role and we continue protecting women and girls from violence,” she said.

Torres said single-parent households, street children, the elderly and persons with disabilities will also benefit from the emergency intervention.

Simon Munde, acting executive director for the Federation of Disability Organizations in Malawi, told VOA the appeal has come at a time when his organization is facing challenges in obtaining personal protective equipment.

Munde pointed out that people with disabilities are at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus.

“Myself as a person with visual impairment, I will need an assistant to be moving me around town. And that kind of a way it means that the issue of social distancing is compromised already. If it is a person who is deaf, most of the times sign language interpreters they have to face each other,” Munde said.

Malawi’s commissioner for disaster management affairs Wilson Moleni said the U.N.’s appeal will complement government efforts to contain the pandemic in the country.