Malawi’s health minister Jappie Mhango has conceded the nation is struggling to mobilize resources to wage war against the COVID-19, a disease caused by the Coronavirus.
Speaking on Wednesday in Lilongwe during the launch of the National COVID-19 preparedness and response plan, Mhango stated that the country is struggling to raise 157 billion Kwacha ( $213 million) to combat the novel Novel Coronavirus.
The pandemic that has killed over 80 thousand people across the globe with Malawi registering a single death and 8 active cases as of Wednesday 8th April.
The Government has raised only 9% of the long term required financial support from various development partners and is faced with a tough assignment to raise the remaining 143 billion Kwacha ( $194 million) within the shortest time possible.
President Peter Mutharika announced weeks ago the government had set aside the initial 2.4 billion Kwacha ($3.2 million) for response and preparedness activities.
Malawi’s first 3 cases were confirmed 6 days ago and the graph is fast going upwards with confirmed community transmission becoming the biggest threat in combating the virus which is still being treated “causally” by some sections of Malawian society.
Malawi like many countries has just entered a new territory where there are no templates for solving the COVID-19 pandemic which has already outpaced government efforts.
The government believes the launched plan will facilitate organised approaches and help the country raise the desperately needed resources.
iHubOnline understands that treatment and quarantine centres are not ready, hospitals do not have adequate equipment, and some health personnel have not been trained or received personal protective equipment, only 20, 000 test kits are available in 3 testing centres against a population of 18 million people.
Doctors and nurses have threatened to down tools across the country if their grievances are not addressed by the end of this week.
Mhango said the government understands the magnitude of the problem and asked everyone to fight the virus as “ wounded soldiers”.
He also assured the donor community their support will not be abused following concerns from human rights activists concerns over accountability and transparency of Covid19 transactions.
Said Mhango : “Let me assure donors and the general public that the funds will be used for their intended purpose and that financial statements will be made public for transparency and accountability’s sake.”
Mhango also warned officials against misappropriation of resources meant for COVID-19.
“The government will not shield anyone involved in any sort of malpractices towards these resources. COVID-19 is no joking matter; any culprit will be brought to book,” he cautioned.
The Minister has also asked local companies to cease available business opportunities to help meet the demand for infrastructure, surveillance, supply chain including Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and communication needs within and across the borders.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Malawi Maria Jose Torres described the 8 confirmed cases in Malawi as “a tip of an Iceberg” and therefore called on the government to upscale measures aimed at containing the further spread of the virus.
Torres said developing the plan is a step in the right direction and no one should take the virus for granted as it continues to attack societies at their core, claim lives and people’s livelihoods.
“The launch of the National Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Response Plan today signifies a step in the right direction to coordinate all our efforts and contributions in dealing with coronavirus crisis in Malawi and preventing its escalation.
The scale and speed of the spread of the virus calls for our shared responsibility to address it so that it does not have dire disruptions on the socio-economic aspects of people’s lives in Malawi” said Torres.
Since March 20th when President Mutharika declared a state of disaster the government has been announcing tough decisions in a bid to slow down the spread of the virus including closing all points of entry, banning public gatherings, suspension of all formal meetings, banning all sporting activities and closing entertainment joints.
Some measures to caution businesses, the vulnerable and underprivileged though not described as “comprehensive enough” by some quarters have also been announced.
Opposition leaders and rights groups say some of the measures are political and will not have a meaningful impact on Malawians.
The political undertones coming from both government and opposition leaders confirm resources are not the only biggest threat to the war against COVID-19 in Malawi but growing political differences which have heightened as the country prepares for a presidential election on 2nd July 2020 after the constitutional court nullified the May 2019 elections on February 3rd this year due to what it called massive irregularities.
The electoral body declared the incumbent Peter Mutharika winner.
Mindful of the emerging developments Torres pleaded with government authorities, civil society, academia, the private sector, trade unions, political parties, the media, traditional leaders, religious leaders and individual citizens to work in solidarity in-spite of their racial, religious, gender, political, tribal or regional connections.
With none or outdated regulations to back some of the government’s tough measures some of which may infringe other people’s rights, Torres asked government to trade carefully when making decisions.
“ Whereas the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our normal way of life, we must not allow it to disrupt our humanity. We must still uphold the rule of law, and respect human rights as important parts of our arsenal in fighting the war on the pandemic.
“Letting our guard down on these key governance instruments at this critical juncture could exacerbate the human condition for sections our population – and thus delay the much-needed recovery” said Torres.
WHO has recorded over 1.3 million COVID-19 cases and close to 80,000 people have lost their lives since the pandemic started.
In Africa, more than 7,000 cases and over 300 deaths have been reported.