Japan supports Malawi with US$725 000 grant in COVID-19 vaccination efforts

The People of Japan have offered the people of Malawi a US$725 000 grant (about 574 million kwacha) whose chief purpose is to boost the country’s health system capacity as it rolls out the largest and most rapid vaccination programme in history this week.

Japanese ambassador to Malawi, Satoshi Iwakiri

Malawi will start issuing the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week on Thursday June 3, according to the Ministry of Health (MoH) principal secretary, Dr. Charles Mwansambo.

But there will be thousands, as Nyasa Times has found out, that will also be taking their first dose.

A statement said the Government of Malawi had released funding of US$36.9 million to 12 Latin American, Caribbean and African countries to improve cold chain management.

According to the statement, made available to Nyasa Times through UNICEF Malawi, 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 management’

Cold chain capabilities, the statement emphasized, are essential for storing and transporting vaccines at the required temperatures if they are to remain effective.

“Cold chain management 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,” reads the statement in part.

The press release further points out that 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.

It said: “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.”

Commenting on the development, Japanese ambassador to Malawi, Satoshi Iwakiri, said the trilateral cooperation—Japanese government, UNICEF and Malawi government—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,” said Iwakiri.

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

“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,” Rudolf Schwenk, UNICEF Malawi Representative, said.

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, a development that 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.

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