Malawi: Polio DREF n° MDRMW016 - Operation Update 1



Description of the disaster On 17 February 2022, Malawi’s Ministry of Health reported a confirmed case of Type 1 wild poliovirus (WPV1) in Lilongwe district, followed by a declaration of an emergency by the Head of State. This was the first case since 1992 and it is also the first detection of a case of WPV1 in Africa since 2016.

The African continent has been declared free of wild poliovirus since 2020 and Malawi obtained a Polio free status in 2005. Genetic sequencing of this case linked the virus to a strain circulating in Pakistan’s Sindh Province in 2019, indicating that this is an imported virus. The detection of a single case of WPV1 outside of the world’s two remaining endemic countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan, represented an emergency that required effective and at-scale response to prevent spread.

Following this development, the Ministry of Health (MoH), with support from partners, put in place strategies for elimination of polio in the country in line with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Polio End Game Strategy.
Ministry of Health developed National Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) which deals with vaccine preventable diseases including Polio, Measles and Neonatal Tetanus. Generally, there is high number of children who are vaccinated in urban areas as compared to the rural areas. The Ministry has also intensified surveillance for these diseases in line with the WHO recommendations. Malawi has sustained good coverage of its entire vaccine antigen above 80% now for two decades and polio vaccine is no exception. The country also vaccinates its children with Inactivated Polio Virus vaccine in all the 29 districts across the country with sustained good coverage to date since introduction in 2018. To reduce the spread and further risks and in line with the WHO guidance and the International Health Regulations (IHR), the country has put in place additional activities to help in reducing further spread of the virus in the country. The country is also working very closely with the neighbouring countries, as these countries are also at risk of this outbreaks.

Malawi Red Cross Society, through this DREF Operation, is also supporting the polio eradication campaigns with social mobilisation and polio messaging activities in 6 districts across the country namely, Mzimba, Mzuzu, Dowa, Lilongwe, Mangochi and Mulanje.