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Japan supports safe distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Malawi through partnership with UNICEF

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Protecting the frontline - a nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a community health worker in Dedza, Malawi © UNICEF Malawi/2021/Gumulira

Lilongwe, 1 June 2021 The Government of Japan has provided US$36.9 million to 12 Latin American, Caribbean and African countries to improve cold chain management. Nearly US$725,000 (about 574 million kwacha) of this funding will support the Government of Malawi in its COVID-19 vaccination efforts by improving cold chain capabilities through enhanced infrastructure, equipment, transportation and training for healthcare staff. Cold chain capabilities are essential for storing and transporting vaccines at the required temperatures if they are to remain effective.

The grant will boost the capacity of Malawi’s health system as it rolls out the largest and most rapid vaccination programme in its history. This is critical to ensuring that the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines does not overstretch existing capacities and disrupt essential, routine childhood immunization services while also strengthening existing health systems so that Malawi continues to benefit from an improved cold chain system beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ensuring equitable access and swift distribution of vaccines is a common challenge for the international community as it works towards the goal of containing COVID-19 across the world. To contribute in achieving this goal, Japan has also contributed US$200 million to the global COVAX Facility, an international mechanism led by Gavi, CEPI, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to ensure and accelerate equitable access to vaccines across the developing world.

Japanese Ambassador to Malawi, His Excellency Satoshi Iwakiri, emphasized that “this trilateral cooperation can promote COVID-19 recovery by building the capacity of the health system in Malawi. The grant, which comes from Japanese citizens, will facilitate the vaccination programme to safeguard the health of the people of Malawi.”

As the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, UNICEF is the lead procurement and supply agency for COVAX. In Malawi, UNICEF has been supporting the Ministry of Health in strengthening its national immunization programme, which benefits millions of children every year.

UNICEF Malawi Representative Rudolf Schwenk said, “Procuring vaccines is only half the job. Without proper storage and transport systems, it is impossible to take vaccines to the people and communities who need them. This support from the Government of Japan will help safely deliver COVID-19 vaccines across the country and ensure continuity of routine immunization services for children beyond COVID-19.”

UNICEF and Japan have a long-term relationship in Malawi – a partnership that is uniquely placed to bring about results at the community level, especially during and post COVID-19. In 2017, the Japanese Government supported UNICEF interventions which trained over 1,000 health surveillance assistants to identify signs of violence and abuse and refer concerned children to appropriate protection services. This has contributed to strengthening the child protection system in Malawi. Japan also supported UNICEF’s immediate response in the aftermath of the 2019 floods by providing child protection services and sanitary kits to adolescent girls.

Media contacts

Rebecca Phwitiko
Communications Officer
UNICEF Malawi
Tel: 0999282723
Email: rphwitiko@unicef.org

Joshua Malango
Ministry of Health
Tel: +265 884 495 839
Email: malangojoshua@gmail.com