South-South Cooperation  to Ensure Children's Right to Education
South-South Cooperation to Ensure Children's Right to Education
Ensuring children's right to education during the cyclone Idai humanitarian operations in Malawi


Cyclone Idai, which hit in March 2019, was the worst natural disaster in Southern Africa in nearly two decades. The cyclone affected 270,000 people, including 129,600 children left in need of life-saving support. In Malawi, the heavy rains and fierce winds associated with the severe weather system resulted in serious flooding across 15 districts, affecting an estimated 869,000 people, including 443,000 children in Nsanje and Phalombe, which were the most affected districts. Most of the flood-affected areas were within the same geographical area and target population, as those locations were of pre-existing food insecurity.

Electricity and water supplies and other critical infrastructure were also seriously damaged. Education was interrupted since schools in the affected areas were being used as sites for temporary shelter for Internally displaced persons (IDPs), thus putting pressure on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and other facilities at the schools and further increasing the risk of cholera and other water-borne diseases.

Towards a Solution

In response to the country’s appeal for humanitarian assistance, in October 2019 the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed an agreement to provide $1 million in humanitarian assistance for populations impacted by Cyclone Idai in Malawi. The project was funded by China’s Global Development and SouthSouth Cooperation Fund,1 previously the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, and was an example of South-South cooperation in action between China and the Government of Malawi.

UNICEF, with the generous contribution from China, provided humanitarian assistance in Malawi addressing the people’s urgent need in education, WASH, nutrition, child protection and health. Among the objectives, to support the resumption of quality education services in pursuit of SDG 4, UNICEF procured and distributed 225 school-in-a-box kits to flood-affected schools in Chikwawa, Nsanje, Phalombe, Mulanje and Zomba districts. The school-in-a-box kit has become part of the UNICEF standard response in emergencies, used in many back-to-school operations around the world. The kit contains supplies and materials for a teacher and up to 40 students. In addition to basic school supplies, such as exercise books, pencils, erasers and scissors, the kit also includes a wooden teaching clock, wooden cubes for counting, a wind-op/solar radio and a set of three laminated posters (alphabet, multiplication and number tables). The kit is supplied in a locked aluminium box, the lid of which can double as a blackboard when coated with the special paint included in the kit. Using a locally developed teaching guide and curriculum, teachers can establish makeshift classrooms almost anywhere.

This support equipped a total of 13,860 (7,069 boys and 6,791 girls) primary school-age children with the required materials to support their learning after schools reopened on 12 October 2020. In addition, 41,780 primary school children (20,172 boys and 21,608 girls) accessed play and materials following distribution of 245 recreation kits which enabled them to participate in play and recreational activities. Additionally, 12,250 2 children (6,737 girls, 5,513 boys) in 100 Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in Chikwawa, Mulanje, Nsanje, Phalombe and Zomba districts accessed and used play materials. A total of 245 ECD kits were procured and distributed for this purpose.

In addition, 40,542 adolescent girl learners in the two project districts, Phalombe and Nsanje, received Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplements and had a conducive environment for them to achieve higher learning outcomes. Since December 2020, the girls are benefiting from 21,082 packets (100 tablets per packet) of weekly IFA supplements. They received the IFA tablets on a weekly basis for 52 weeks as per programme guidelines, to achieve adolescent girls’ yearly compliance intake of 50-52 tablets in a year.

To maximize the gains from the teaching and learning materials provided, a total of 350 teachers and caregivers (about 30 per cent male) from Chikwawa, Mulanje, Nsanje, Phalombe, and Zomba districts were trained and oriented on how to use the school-in-a-box, ECD and recreation kits. The training helped learners and teachers to effectively use the materials for learning, cognitive development and play. It also helped ECD learners to better prepare for primary schools and made them more likely to actively participate and complete their education.

Through this project a total of 85,572 child learners (63,106 girls and 22,466 boys) were supported to achieve higher learning outcomes through enabling and conducive environment. The beneficiaries include 45,030 children (22,564 girls, 22,466 boys) from five disaster-affected districts that were provided with teaching and learning materials. Out of the 45,030 children, 32,780 are primary school children (16,953 girls, 15,827 boys) from 24 schools in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts and 12,250 are preschool children (6,737 girls, 5,513 boys) from five districts.

Headteacher Patrick Bishop at Bangula Full Primary School in Nsanje district praised the impact of the school-in-a-box kit on the learners. “It has improved the attitude of learners at the school. The box comes with notebooks, slates and chalks which really helped the school get back on its feet after the effects of Cyclone Idai.… the enrolment of girls has already improved. We currently have 1,747 girls against 1,849 boys who are enrolled in the school and the difference is very minimal”, he explains.

To ensure children’s rights in humanitarian operations, cross-cutting approaches are critical to address challenges in all aspects during a crisis. In this project, services including nutrition, health, WASH, and education are integrated to benefit children comprehensively. UNICEF’s global coordination on supply and logistics secured the procurement of vital nutrition supplements and educational kits to be delivered to the most vulnerable children in Malawi. Apart from the in-kind donation, capacity-building activities organized for teachers maximized the effectiveness and efficiency of using resources to achieve results for children.

Contact Information

Yifei Wang, Partnerships Specialist, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) China

Countries involved

China, Malawi

Supported by

Government of China, Government of Malawi, UNICEF

Implementing Entities


Project Status


Project Period

12/2019 - 5/2021

URL of the practice

Primary SDG

04 - Quality Education

Primary SDG Targets

4.2, 4.5

Secondary SDGs

01 - No Poverty, 05 - Gender Equality, 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Secondary SDG Targets

1.a, 5.1, 17.6, 17.7

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