UN Resident Coordinator's Speech at National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan launch

We are confident that this plan can help us fully address the pandemic and its negative effects in the country.

I want to thank you all for joining this launch of the National Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Response Plan. I am delivering these remarks on behalf of the international community and NGOs in Malawi.

We are all facing a common challenge

As of this morning, WHO reported that COVID-19 cases globally have reached about 1.3 million and more than 72,000 people have lost their lives since the pandemic started.

In Africa, we have recorded more than 7,000 cases and over 300 deaths.

We grieve at the loss of the lives, including one death in Malawi, due to COVID-19.

Globally, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, launched a COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan last week Tuesday (31st March) to help to fight the virus in the world’s poorest countries, and address the needs of the most vulnerable people. The Secretary-General has also launched the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. The Fund has three aims, with a finance window for each one to: stop transmission of the virus, protect the most vulnerable from its socio-economic impacts, and make countries more resilient to future health crises.

Difficult times call for difficult measures

COVID-19 is attacking our societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods. We do not have to take it for granted. It is affecting lives of all people and requiring us to step up to take difficult measures to overcome it. We are all adjusting our behaviours and practices due to this virus.

As the UN Secretary-General has stated: “COVID-19 is threatening the whole of humanity – and the whole of humanity must fight back.” He has said that the world is at war with a virus, but so far, we are not winning it. This tells us about how serious the challenge we are facing is.

Due to the exponential growth of COVID-19 infections, the current cases may be viewed as only a tip of an iceberg if COVID-19 is not contained quickly. This is why the Secretary-General has said that dealing with COVID-19 requires a war-time plan to win the fight.

The development of the Response Plan considered three scenarios:

  • No COVID-19 case
  • Imported or sporadic case
  • Clusters or with community transmission

Today, we have taken another turn as cases are spreading around the country, with so far three districts affected – Lilongwe, Blantyre and Chikwawa. Let us all contribute towards up-scaling the measures necessary to contain the spread of the virus.

Response plan is step in right direction

The launch of the National Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Response Plan today signifies a step in the right direction to coordinate all our efforts and contributions in dealing with coronavirus crisis in Malawi and preventing its escalation.

The scale and speed of the spread of the virus calls for our shared responsibility to address it so that it does not have dire disruptions on the socio-economic aspects of people’s lives in Malawi.

The main objective of this response plan is to prevent COVID-19 infections and ensure rapid detecting of cases and effectively responding to any COVID-19 outbreak to reduce loss of lives and socio-economic ramifications.

Through our support towards implementation of this plan, we will be fulfilling our primary role of protecting the lives of vulnerable people in Malawi during this disaster.

We are confident that this plan can help us fully address the pandemic and its negative effects in the country.

We also take note that this multi-sectoral plan seeks US$ 213 million in seven sectors in three phases (short/ medium/ long term), with an immediate request for US$ 29 million.

We encourage all stakeholders to support implementation of the plan. A lot of Development Partners are already engaged in providing support.

Three imperatives are key to fighting COVID-19 in Malawi

(a) A well-functioning health system

An immediate coordinated health response to suppress transmission and end the pandemic is crucial. This calls for ensuring health capacity for testing, tracing, quarantining and treatment of cases, while keeping first responders safe, combined with measures to restrict movement and contact.

This is important to prevent the disease from spreading like wildfire here in Malawi

During this time, Malawi can be as strong as its health system.

(b) Focus on most vulnerable and do not forget human rights

In Malawi there are a number of vulnerable groups that face difficulties accessing public information and services.

COVID 19 information and response efforts need to take particular care to identify people who may be at risk of being missed or excluded.

This should include persons living with disabilities or chronic illnesses, persons with albinism, single-headed households, remote villages, LGBTI persons, persons living with HIV/AIDS, the elderly, refugees and those living in extreme poverty.

These people should not be missed on COVID-19 information and services. We need to leave no one behind. Our efforts will be as effective as our ability to reach the last mile.

To achieve this, we need to also focus on the local level in terms of coordination of the response and its implementation.

We need to ensure that people’s rights are protected during this crisis. As we deal with the pandemic, we should maintain our focus on the broader spectrum of human rights, ensuring full respect and protection of our collective fundamental values.

Ignoring key human rights or marginalizing vulnerable or minority populations are likely to undermine the public health response.

For instance, targeted measures to lessen the impact of the crisis on women are needed. Care-giving roles disproportionality fall on women and girls in the home and in the health workforce, which puts them at greater risk of infection.

(c) Global action, solidarity and unity of purpose

COVID-19 has shown that global action is not just an option but a must.

Everyone must do their part to support the efforts.

We call on everyone in Malawi to work together to address this crisis.

This is the moment to come together to save lives and fight a common threat.

Government authorities, civil society, academia, the private sector, trade unions, political parties, the media, traditional leaders, religious leaders and individual citizens all need to do their part in responding to the crisis with solidarity and respect regardless of their racial, religious, gender, political, tribal or regional connections.

Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our normal way of life, we must not allow it to disrupt our humanity. We must still uphold the rule of law, and respect human rights as important parts our arsenal in fighting the war on the pandemic. Letting our guard down on these key governance instruments at this critical juncture could exacerbate the human condition for sections our population – and thus delay the much-needed recovery.

The UN and Development Partners stand ready to support the response plan.

Together, we can defeat COVID-19 in Malawi.

Thank you!

Speech by
Maria Jose Torres Macho
Resident Coordinator
UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Fund for Agricultural Development
International Labor Organization
International Organization for Migration
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Human Settlements Programme
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
United Nations Capital Development Fund
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Department of Safety and Security
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
United Nations Volunteers
World Food Programme
World Health Organization