UNICEF Malawi COVID-19 Situation Report, 17 - 23 September 2020

Situation Report
Originally published



  • UNICEF is supporting the scale up of screening of travellers at Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) and land border crossings to strengthen the surveillance systems and build capacity for detection of COVID-19 cases. Within the reporting period, more than 77,500 road travellers and about 400 flyers that entered the country through KIA were screened by health workers with support from Malawi Red Cross Society volunteers.

  • In response to the large number of returnees that the country continues to receive, 12 new latrines were installed at Mwanza border post. To date, a total of 112 emergency latrines have been installed with UNICEF support in nine districts.

  • UNICEF has supported the Ministry of Education (MoE) to develop 100 different key messages on back to school campaign, keeping girls in school including ending child marriages, hygiene and COVID-19 prevention, gender equality including sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) prevention and on adolescent nutrition. The messages have been translated into local languages including Chichewa, Yao and Tumbuka languages. MoE expects to reach a total of 2.6 million people with these key messages including in and out of schoolboys and girls.

  • During the reporting period, over 14,500 adolescents from 65 schools in Mangochi, Dedza and Salima have been reached with key COVID 19 related key messages including elimination of child marriages, back to school campaign, gender equality and child rights, adolescent nutrition, hygiene, deworming and COVID-19 prevention.

Situation Overview

Malawi continues to register a reduced number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. At that the beginning of the response few samples were being tested and the yield for positive cases was equally very low.

However, the situation changed in Week 21, when the country received the first batch of Malawian returnees (both deportee and voluntary returnees) from South Africa. This was coupled with the peak of presidential elections related big crowds. There was an increase in the number of cases from single digit to hundreds with sustained (uninterrupted) transmission. By week 30 the positivity rate had increased to 21%. At week 31 confirmed cases started reducing despite of high number sample being tested then. Coincidentally, the declining number of positive cases reported in Week 31 happened at the time when presidential elections related crowds had ended. While there are challenges associated with continuous lack of test kits and limited contact tracing, analysis of available data shows some evidence of flattening of the curve (See above graph). During the reporting week, Malawi has registered 38 new cases compared to 71 in the previous week.

As of 22 September, Malawi has registered a total of 5,739 confirmed cases from all the 28 districts. The number of recoveries is at 4,065 and 179 deaths have been reported. Of the total cases, 4,593 are locally transmitted and 1,146 are imported infections The country continues receiving returning residents and deportees from other countries, mainly South Africa. In the past week over 900 returnees arrived through Mwanza border in southern region. The returnees are screened through a comprehensive triage upon entry and those with symptoms are tested for COVID-19 while those without symptoms proceeded to their destinations for self-quarantine and follow up by respective district health authorities.

Since the opening of the Kamuzu International Airport for commercial flights on 1 September, about 4,349 travellers have been screened with no major reported incidences. All passengers are required to present a negative COVID-19 test result on departure and those arriving in Malawi are required to present a COVID-19 certificate for a negative result in the last 72 hours.

Active tracing and monitoring of contacts of confirmed COVID-19 are ongoing. However, there is a reduction in surveillance activities as a result of limited testing because of shortage of test kits. UNICEF Malawi country office is working closely with UNICEF supply division to fast track the procurement of consumables for Malawi to start using Thermofisher test kits. The rollout of Thermofisher test kits and optimization of the current PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) platforms will lead to increase in testing for COVID-19 testing because Thermofisher test kits are readily available on market compared to Abbott and Cephid kits.