How high profile deaths have created new attitudes to COVID-19

2 min read
Hands being washed under an outdoor tap
Image: WaterAid/ Nyani Quarmyne/ Panos
Image: WaterAid/Ernest Randriarimalala

Like Eswatini and other southern African countries, Malawi lost two cabinet ministers and five members of parliament as well as other prominent personalities to COVID-19 in January. As at 22nd February this year, the country recorded 30,942 cases with 1,021 deaths. This surge overwhelmed the few hospitals and other health facilities, prompting President Lazarus Chakwera to declare a state of National Disaster in mid-January. $22,600,000 was immediately released by government to the COVID-19 taskforce. 

A sneak peek of Malawi’s health facilities has exposed the magnitude of poor sanitation, inadequate access to clean water, and poor hygiene practices. WaterAid Malawi has contributed funds to help purchase 1,208 hands-free handwashing stations, soap, sanitisers, disinfectants, and personal protective equipment for fifteen health care facilities and markets in Lilongwe and six other districts. We have also conducted sensitisation sessions on infection prevention awareness for hospital staff.

Funds from the German Development Agency (GIZ) has enabled WaterAid to renovate water supply systems and increase capacity at Bwaila and Ntcheu District referral hos-pitals which caters for over 319,000 people. With improved water infrastructure, the hospitals now offer better isolation and treatment services. 

WaterAid’s area of concern has been the low-level of investment in the WASH sector, one which is cardinal in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 contagion. WaterAid’s call on the government to increase its WASH budget to a minimum of 5% of the total national budget, yielded an allocated 4.13% in 2020-2021 budget.

Image: WaterAid