Young tailors in Luwatala have been making masks for the community. About half the village can now have access to a mask to use, especially if they are going to the local market. All the kind donations from the crowdfunding site have been going towards hygiene resources for the prevention of Covid-19 spread so the community can buy the things it needs.
There are now (end of June) over 1000 cases of Covid-19 in Malawi and local transmission within the population. Testing is limited as is health care: Gardian article: if-it-comes-it-will-overwhelm-us-malawi-braces-for-coronavirus Luwatala has formed a health committee who are working with the church and the community to provide health support. Here we are responding to the community to provide soap, buckets and medication. We are also listening to and sharing stories of our experiences.
Luwatala is keeping well but concern is building as cases of Covid-19 in Malawi reach 273 at the end of May, with local transmission of virus now being reported. Donations via our Crowdfunding site have allowed the purchase of over 1000 bars of soap to be distributed within the community, focusing on shared community areas and the most vulnerable residents (see photos below). Luwatala now have some medication, pales for hand-washing and are beginning to make masks.
There has been collaborative work with Innerleithen (ITW partnership with Thondwe Church) to set up the necessary skills and resources for local mask production. Rev. Picklen (from Thondwe) visited Luwatala to demonstrate mask making and young tailors are finding some work making the masks on borrowed machines in Luwatala Church.
There is no electricity so the tailors, who have just finished their training, use a peddle operated machine. Seven new tailors are now making masks.
The biggest concern in Malawi is not Covid-19 but the worry that any lockdown or travel restrictions will create starvation. Most Malawians make just enough to feed their family each day and there is no opportunity for saving enough to feed families during lockdown. In Luwatala there is subsistance farming with very little cash in the local economy. The harvest has just been brought in but many families will be short in the year ahead. A single donor from Stow-Heriot decided to act and set up a maize store for Luwatala.
Tension in Malawi is building as the first cases of CoVid-19 are being reported in the cities. A little funding has been sent to help the rural community in Luwatala prepare. It is only now that there is an interest in spending money on prevention – money is such a rare resource that there is a reluctance to spend it on soap or hand washing. Now we are trying to think of ways to get hand washing implemented at communal areas: such as toilet facilities (often shared by a small village) or water pumps (three in the whole valley) or church, were worship and celebration is central.
There is little capacity in the local health facilities – were it is already hard to find treatment for illness. Luwatala’s hope lies in its isolation and the crops being almost ready to harvest; this local food source should limit the necessity to go into town. There is a respect for the elderly and those already unwell. The community is still very vulnerable to corona virus and there will be little help available if does arise and spread.
In the Scottish Borders we are worried about our Partners in Malawi. There is also a shared anxiety about a virus that we are both facing. As I write this I am taking some of the learning we have acquired here and I am passing it on to one of the chiefs in Luwatala. We have put some credit for WhatsApp on a phone locally and now it is providing a valuable way to communicate. We are comparing ideas and advice so that there is as much information as possible for Luwatala to make local decisions about how to protect itself with hygiene implementation.
18th April – update
The Malawian government tried to implement a lock down but this was met with protests. Most Malawians earn just enough to sustain themselves each day, there is no capacity amongst the poor to endure staying at home without facing the very real possibility of starvation. Although the government would like to restrict movement and any spread of corona virus there is no clear policy on how to care for vulnerable people. An injunction has been put on the lock down process in the hope that new initiatives can be put in place.
If you can help with any donation it will be put towards hygiene (soap, chlorinated water for hand washing, buckets) and urgent medication (paracetamol in whatever form it can be sourced locally to reduce fever).
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