The latest number of total confirmed coronavirus cases in Malawi stands at 5,773 with a total of 1,331 active cases to as of the 02/10/2020 (https://www.who.int/countries/mwi/) These numbers, however, do not paint the full picture of the pandemic in rural Africa. The reality is far worse than the rest of the world realises and has devastating effects on the remote communities that DATUM FOUNDATION supports.
Our main concerns remain the health and safety of children and the people of the communities in the NKHATA BAY District. This has a population of some 280,000 of which 125,000 are under the age of 14 years old.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Malawi in late March it impacted rural communities and surrounding villages in many ways – one being the closure of local schools. The impact of the school closure left students in vulnerable situations and many fell behind on their education.
Fischer Zimba is the Headmaster at the Secondary School we built in CHISALA. He says,
“Teaching has become very tough”.
He outlines the challenges with getting schooling back to normal as the number of active cases begins to tail off.
Fischer highlighted that as of September, schools are now only open to those in examination classes, but class sizes are small, due to the need of protective equipment required by every individual attending.
This has meant that class sizes have also dwindled, as the 5-month shut down took away the student’s structure and support network.
The impact of the virus has caused further financial challenges to students and their families as they require money to pay for clothing, school equipment and fee support and personal protective wear. This has meant that not all children will be able to return to their studies.
Throughout the pandemic DATUM FOUNDATION’s main concern has remained the health and safety of the children, our friends, and colleagues in Malawi. Our efforts to help reduce the risk of transmission in local communities seen DATUM FOUNDATION employ local tailors to purchase fabric, which has been used to manufacture face masks. In a recent conversation our tailors have informed us they have been working hard to keep up with demand and have produced1,500 masks this week with a further 1,500 to be produced in the coming days.
Work is also being done to acquire and distribute other essential protective equipment such as soap and handwash buckets and distributing these to local schools and health clinics.
The Covid-19 appeal has seen DATUM FOUNDATION manufacture some 30,000 face masks out of our 50,000 target. The task we now face is continuous distribution of the face masks to communities across the region, where transport to rural areas can be a challenge.
Local healthcare professionals are unaware of the true impact of the coronavirus within the community as the knowledge of the symptoms is limited. The health care system that is not nearly as accessible as that we experience here in the UK.
Nurses based in local clinics are forced to rely on Google and listen to the radio to learn more about the effects of coronavirus. They also struggle due to a lack of resources to circulate information to the community where many still are unaware of the dangers.
DATUM FOUNDATION have also been helping to maintain a health care campaign using information aligned with International and Malawian Government advise. This uses printed posters in English and the local language, Chichewa, and messages circulated by mobile phone to encourage regular handwashing and the wearing of masks.
So while our construction projects have been put on hold due to the outbreak of Covid-19 DATUM FOUNDATION has pulled all resources on helping thousands of people in the remote areas of Northern Malawi fight this devastating virus.
“After handwashing, the wearing of Personal Protective Equipment, especially masks, is regarded as one of best ways of preventing the spread of Covid-19. In countries like Malawi, both are of paramount importance because most of the population have little access to healthcare.”
“DATUM are working to raise funds to supply masks, and soap to the communities of northern Malawi. With your help DATUM can reduce the risk of transmission Covid-19. – and helps save lives.”
Professor Dame Elizabeth Fradd DBE DL
To donate towards our COVID-19 appeal please donate here