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Joseph Lewinski

Multisectoral Malaria Platform Lead, Catholic Relief Services (CRS)

Climate, natural disasters and conflict displace millions of people into zones where malaria is highly prevalent, creating major challenges for humanitarian response.

Global coordination can offer improved support to displaced populations in malarial regions. Millions, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, face an increased threat from malaria after being displaced by changing weather conditions or conflict.

Displaced populations

Humanitarian experts believe a more coordinated, continuous and adaptive approach between countries and emergency agencies is critical in addressing these challenges.

Joseph Lewinski, Multisectoral Malaria Platform Lead with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), says: “The world is living with a large level of displacement, with 110 million people displaced and many of these in malaria-endemic areas.” CRS is an NGO working in the malaria sector in 12 countries.

Lewinski adds: “We have seen an increasing amount of displacement from natural causes through weather-related events and climate as well as through civil strife and conflict, leading towards internal displacement and refugees flowing out of countries.” He cites the recent cyclone in Malawi with local populations displaced by flooding.

Prevention commodities

A challenge lies in aligning systems designed for routine malaria care. Lewinski continues: “We also have challenges with getting the right malaria prevention commodities like bed nets or other prevention tools to distribute to displaced populations.

“Changing weather patterns are creating further challenges when it comes to mosquito breeding and transmission and our ability to effectively control that.”

The world is living with a large level of displacement, with 110 million people displaced and many of these in malaria-endemic areas.

Malaria tools

With ecological changes creating malarial issues, Lewinski emphasises the importance of improved coordination between humanitarian response partners. He points to their recent work co-hosting roundtable discussions with Red Cross, Alliance for Malaria Prevention and the UN Foundation to examine how cluster system partners can mitigate ongoing challenges.

Coordination between private and public sectors and affected communities is critical to developing strategies that better serve displaced populations. “These include shelters with insecticide on them; changing the dimensions of bed nets; and improved indoor residual spraying,” he says. Another step is around prepositioning commodities to enable better and quicker responses to emergencies.

Blended transition

CRS and its partners are working with the vaccination/immunisation sector to better understand where displaced populations are missing out on routine services. One project with USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Response is piloting delivery of nets through water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services they provide.

Multisectoral coordination can ensure a more blended transition from emergency response to the development phase and a collaborative approach in funding, with the flexibility to mitigate effects of the climate crisis on stable communities that become displaced.

Lewinski stresses that countries must learn from one another’s experiences to plan for — and respond to — emergencies in the future.

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