UNICEF Malawi Takes COVID-19 Messages to Children with Special Needs

Story by: Chancy Mauluka, C4D Specialist, UNICEF Malawi, Hilda Chapota, Parent and Child Health Initiative (PACHI)

Children with disabilities (CwDs) in Malawi disproportionately suffer deprivations in key areas of child wellbeing including education and access to life saving information. In the wake of COVID-19 these children demand special attention from implementers to ensure they equally have knowledge and skills to prevent the pandemic.

blind child
Winston, Standard 4 Learner Reads Braille in Class

UNICEF Malawi in partnership with the Parent and Child Health Initiative (PACHI) and the Ministry of Health supported the Ministry of Education to produce materials for children with disabilities in schools. UNICEF supported production of messages and printing of braille materials that have reached 1,000 children in 17 resource centres in 13 districts (Nsanje, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Phalombe, Mangochi, Ntcheu, Lilongwe, Salima, Nkhotakota, Kasungu, Nkhata bay, Mzimba and Karonga). The materials contain key messages on what COVID-19 is, modes of transmission and preventive practices; that include social distancing, frequent handwashing, preventing handshakes and wearing masks.

Facilitated by teachers of children with special needs, the materials are read by pupils and translated into sign language in interactive sessions. So far, the materials have received wide acclaim from pupils.

“I feel loved…I feel that people can consider that I am living and I need to be protected from COVID-19.” Remarked one of the learners at Salima resource centre.

According, Mr H Magombo, Inclusive Education Officer, in the Ministry of Education desk, the materials that have been developed are enough to reach out to all leaners in resource centres and even those in the community. At district level the feeling is equally appreciative:

“These Braille booklets have come at the right time. We thank UNICEF and the Ministry for considering the learners with disability. This was a concern and a challenge as we had no solution.” Mr A. Machemba, District Education Manager for Chiradzulu.

UNICEF commenced implementation of COVID-19 communication and community engagement interventions as early as February 2020 with support from the UKaid and has so far produced materials for children that include a COVID-19 Comic Book, an animation video and the materials for children with disabilities.

speak problems
Children with speak problems (Left to right; Takondwa Ngoma, Muchitadala Chibowa, Henry Chikaoneka) in an interactive session with their teacher (Mr J Khuku)