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Malawi Nutrition Update Issue No. 41 April 2020

Since the start of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in December 2019, the virus has spread to over 211 countries and territories with over 3.6 million confirmed cases worldwide. The first COVID-19 cases were announced in Malawi in early April, and currently there are 43 confirmed cases, 3 deaths and 9 recoveries in the country with more than 6,268 people under health system follow up. The government of Malawi declared a state of disaster in April 2020 and, with support from develop-ment partners, developed a National COVID-19 multi-sector Response Plan highlighting an investment need of US$ 211 million.

While the COVID-19 virus cannot be transmitted through breast milk, the risk of transmission from an infected mother to her infant through direct contact and respiratory droplet and/or through contact with contaminated surfaces during feeding is high. The nutrition cluster has developed a response plan aimed at preventing the spread of the Corona Virus disease among children and women in Malawi and provision of adequate health and nutrition care and support among those infected by the vi-rus.
A spike in Covid-19 cases and the resultant restrictions in the movement of people and transport systems will risk disruptions in domestic food supply systems impacting on household food security. The COVID 19 pandemic will worsen the food security situation of the already vulnerable groups including 1.8 million Malawians in IPC Phase 3 or above (October 2019 to March 2020). This will affect the quality of diets primarily through de-clining demand for vegetables, fruits, and animal-sourced foods, which are the main sources of essential micronutrients in diets. The already poor state of only 8% of children aged 6-23 months who meet the minimum dietary standards is likely to worsen.
COVID-19 may also lead to inadequate access to health and WASH services and inadequate care practices. In addition, there may be disruptions in nutrition, immunization, micronutri-ent supplementation, supply chains of essential services and other health services for children if facilities become over-stretched, health workers fall ill or families stay away because of fears of contacting the virus. Also, there will be reduced mecha-nisms to actively identify children with acute malnutrition result-ing in late presentation of cases and reduced treatment program coverage. According to the 2015 Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) study in Malawi, 23 percent of all child mortality cases in Malawi are associated with under-nutrition. Furthermore, a child with Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) is up to four times more likely to die than a well-nourished child, and a child with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is nine times more likely to die than a well-nourished child, especially below the age of two.
These factors may result in worsening the nutrition situation and high case fatality rates in Malawi a country already character-ized by high levels of undernutrition of under-5 children, preg-nant and lactating women as well among the elderly population. In 2020, the nutrition cluster estimated 56,684 to be at risk of severe acute malnutrition, the resultant increase in food security and disruption of services may result in over 25% increase in the Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) caseload to 70,854.


Operation(s)/ Webspace(s): 
United Nations Children's Fund
Original Publication Date: 
30 Apr 2020
Document type: