The United Nations Resident Representative Maria Jose Torres has urged government and all stakeholders to ensure a 360 degree approach in communicating COVID-19 information.
Torres made the remarks when she addressed delegates to the launch of Malawi’s COVID-19 Disaster Response and Preparedness Plan in Lilongwe yesterday.
“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,” she said.
Torres added that 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 should be targeted with COVID-19 messages.
“We need to leave no one behind. Our efforts will be as effective as our ability to reach the last mile,” she hinted.
The UN chief in Malawi warned authorities against failing to respect human rights across the spectrum.
“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,” she stated.
She clarified that ignoring key human rights or marginalizing vulnerable or minority populations would likely undermine the public health response.
She cited as an example the need to design 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,” she said.
Speaking at the same event, health minister Jappie Mhango said government, through the Cabinet Committee on COVID-19 had put in place modalities to ensure every sector of society is reached with information on COVID-19.
“We have set up structures to ensure that we reach all sectors of society. We are working with all players including opposition political parties represented in Parliament,” Mhango added.
His assertions on the involvement of opposition political parties, however, are in contrast with what UTM leader Saulos Chilima said yesterday.
“Those people in that Committee (the Cabinet Committee) are acting in excess of their powers. They are politicising the COVID-19. It is not only wrong but immoral to politicise a crisis like this to earn votes,” said Chilima.
Specifically taking questions on this assertion, Mhango parried it aside, saying Members of Parliament (MPs) and Councillors who are tasked to represent Malawians are being involved at different levels.