Q+A with Kondwani: Coronavirus in Nkhata Bay North

Living with the Coronavirus in Nkhata Bay North.

Over a thousand cases have been confirmed in Malawi but without widespread testing and a lack of information from the government, it’s hard to estimate the actual toll of the coronavirus so far.

How have communities in Nkhata Bay North been affected by the coronavirus? 

Kondwani: People in rural areas have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus because they are the most dependant on activities needing movement and close interaction. Government restrictions have meant that markets have been closed, so most people can’t sell their produce.  Parents can’t send their children to school, and vulnerable people can’t access health care.

Do people have access to hospitals and medical centres? 

Kondwani: Restrictions on movement have made it more difficult for people to get to health centres. Here in Nkhata Bay North we have 5 health facilities. They cover an area the size of Somerset with 55,000 residents. Since the Coronavirus, these facilities have had difficulties getting even basic materials. They are struggling to access clean water, soap, masks, and sanitiser. Most of the facilities don’t have enough water buckets and soap to be able to even wash their hands.

Has Temwa been able to continue its programmes during the Coronavirus pandemic?  

Kondwani: Most agriculture and forestry programmes have been stopped because they involve large gatherings of people. However, the growing season is starting now so the team is eager to continue activities so that communities don’t suffer during the future harvest season. The government restrictions have also meant that primary schools, secondary schools, and universities have closed. This is having a huge impact on the students who are at home with little to do.

What is Temwa doing to help? 

Kondwani: As you may be aware, Nkhata Bay North is very hard to reach and Temwa is the only big organisation working there. Temwa is bridging the gap between the remote community members and the local government in Nkhata Bay. Helping information to go between the local government to the communities is very important. Temwa is also providing materials to health centres so that people have access to better-stocked clinics and group services.  

How have Temwa’s programmes changed to adapt to the Coronavirus pandemic? 

Kondwani: Temwa is working with health centres in Nhata Bay North and is in planning meetings with the District Health Office to discuss the priorities of our response. We’re also providing materials such as washbasins, soap, hand sanitiser, aprons, and masks. Temwa has led information campaigns in communities using Usisya Community Radio to share information and is also consulting Village Development Committees.

What is the Malawi Government doing about the Coronavirus? 

Kondwani: There’s limited information being given to people, especially in hard to reach areas like Nkhata Bay North. In general, people have been living in fear and are scared of what will happen to them next because they are not sure who could give them the virus. Temwa is working hard to fill this role so that people are informed and able to cope with the Coronavirus.

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