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Food assistance amid Covid

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We have to do things differently and we have to do different things. This sentence has become our motto since the Covid pandemic started. With over 1.8 million people supported by our life-saving and life-changing programme, the challenges to continue our assistance and make it even more meaningful has not been easy.

After a relatively light first wave, the second wave in Malawi, mostly driven by the new variant identified in South Africa, has swept us off our feet. We got several positive cases in our team and lost two colleagues, may their soul and the soul of all those who passed away, rest in peace.

This scenario has exerted extra pressure on already existing challenges in the health sector including limited screening and isolation capacities, insufficient storage for medical supplies and infrastructure capacities which pose an unprecedented threat to the functioning of logistics operations to scale up the Covid response.

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World Food Programme (WFP) is collaborating with key partners to respond to, undeniably, one of the largest public health crises of our time. We adapted all our programmes to the new context, making sure they were serving those most in need, without creating risks of spreading further the virus.

In addition, building on our know-how developed during the Ebola crisis in West Africa, we stepped our logistics support, becoming involved in things one would not have expected, such as building medical units for the treatment of Covid patients at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.

For instance, with financial support from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Acceleration Fund and the Government of Iceland, WFP Malawi has been providing engineering support through the Deployment of Mobile Storage Units and container labs in hospitals, border posts, airports and at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp for testing, screening and isolation. I myself visited the Chileka Airport and other structures I was impressed by the work done.

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In order to store personal protective equipment and other Covid-19 supplies to be used in health facilities, the Government and Humanitarian partners have used over 600-square metre-capacity of WFP common storage space in Lilongwe and Blantyre – the hotspots of the outbreak.

Moving forward, WFP can also provide technical logistical support to the Government and all lead partners involved in the Covid vaccine distribution in Malawi with training of staff and personnel on the health aspect of the supply chain as well as cold chain warehouse management.

Naturally, we have not forgotten our key mandate and during this period, we are also working no-stop to reach the hungriest communities of the country, including in urban areas, to distribute food and cash assistance in collaboration with the government authorities and thanks to the generous donations of the United States, United Kingdom and Norwegian governments.

Solidarity should be at the core of the war on Covid. Healthcare workers are doing a remarkable job in the frontlines but everybody should do their part to help defeat this virus. And we are trying our best to do ours.

*Marco Cavalcante is WFP Malawi Deputy Country Director

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