Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries, including Malawi, have struggled to mitigate its impact amid limited fiscal support and fragile health systems.
Covid-19 has plunged Africa into its first recession in over 25 years and vulnerable groups—the poor, informal sector workers, women, and youth—suffer disproportionately from reduced opportunities and unequal access to social safety nets.
Fast-tracking Covid-19 vaccine acquisition, alongside widespread testing, improved treatment and strong health systems—is critical to protecting lives and stimulating economic recovery.
In support of the African Union’s (AU) target to vaccinate 60 percent of the continent’s population by 2022, the World Bank and AU announced a partnership to assist the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (Avatt) with resources for countries to purchase vaccines for 400 million Africans. This complements Covax amid rising cases in the region.
Unless every country has fair, broad and fast access to effective and safe vaccines, we will not stop the pandemic and put the global economy on track for a steady and inclusive recovery.
The World Bank has taken unprecedented steps to ramp up financing for Malawi and every African country toimplement successful vaccination campaigns and compensate for income losses, food price increases and service delivery disruptions.
In line with Malawi’s national plan to vaccinate 60 percent of the population, the World Bank approved $30 million in additional financing for the acquisition of safe and effective Covid -19 vaccines.
This is a boost to Malawi’s Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness project, bringing World Bank contributions in this sector up to $37 million.
Malawi’s decision to purchase 1.8 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccines through the AU/African Vaccine Acquisition Trust with World Bank financing will bring additional vaccines to meet its target.
However, the country’s vaccination campaign has encountered challenges driven by concerns about safety, efficacy, religious and cultural beliefs.
These concerns, combined with abundant misinformation, are fueling vaccine hesitancy despite the pandemic’s impact on the health and welfare of billions of people.
The low uptake of Covid-19 vaccines is of great concern in an uphill race to reach the target of 60 percent by 2023 from the current 2.2 percent.
Government leadership remains fundamental to address vaccine hesitancy by consistently communicating the benefits of the vaccine, releasing Covid data and helping communities understand how this impacts them.
As we deploy targeted resources to address Covid-19, we are also working to ensure that these investments support a robust, sustainable and resilient recovery.
Our support emphasises transparency, social protection, poverty alleviation and policy-based financing to ensure that Covid assistance gets to those hit the hardest.
For example, the Financial Inclusion and Entrepreneurship Scaling Project in Malawi is providing micro, small and medium enterprises with $47 million in affordable credit through commercial banks and microfinance institutions. Eight months on, about $8.4 million (K6.9 billion) has been made available through three banks on better terms and interest rates.
Additionally, nearly 200 000 urban households have received cash transfers and the urban poor now have more affordable access to water for Covid-19 prevention.
Furthermore, domestic mobilisation of resources for the Covid-19 response is vital for security of supply of commodities needed to administer vaccinations and sustain ongoing measures.
Likewise, regional approaches fostering cross-border collaboration are as imperative as in-country efforts to prevent the Covid-19 spread. United Nations partners in Malawi have been pivotal in convening regional stakeholders and supporting vaccine deployment.
Taking broad, fast action to help countries like Malawi during this unprecedented crisis will save lives and prevent more people falling into poverty. We thank Malawi for their decisive action and will continue to support the country and its people to build a resilient and inclusive recovery.
The author is the World Bank director of strategy and operations in eastern and southern Africa