Government, through the Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events, will this year construct two emergency operations centres (EOCs) to enhance coordination of disaster response operations.
Speaking on Friday (27th March, 2020) in Chikwawa District when the Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) launched its mobile EOC [a central control unit responsible for coordinating response operations during disasters], Director of Disaster Risk Reduction in the Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs, James Chiusiwa said the two EOCs will be constructed in Zomba and Blantyre.
As most of you are aware, the world is experiencing a new health threat through the emergence of a new type of Coronavirus also called COVID-19.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared coronavirus a pandemic (a disease affecting the whole world).
So far, we know that the virus can be transmitted between human beings, and that its incubation period takes 2 to 10 days from infection with the virus, to the onset of symptoms.
Common symptoms of the Corona virus infection include:
- Sore throat and,
- Difficulty in breathing
At present, no specific Off-the-Counter treatment or vaccine for Corona virus is available.
What hospitals can do is to support patients by relieving the symptoms while their bodies fight the infection naturally.
As we take every precaution, we must maintain our hope because according to health experts, 97% of patients infected by the Corona virus get well after medical interventions.
In the absence of vaccine and an Off-the-Counter treatment, raising awareness of the risk factors for the Coronavirus infection and protective measures individuals can take is the only way to reduce human infection and death.
There are two myths that we need to be careful of about Corona virus:
- That black people are immune to the disease
- That the warm climate of Africa is protective against the virus
I strongly advise that you should disregard these myths and follow precautionary measures.
My fellow Malawians,
while scientists are conducting research to understand the virus better, my government on advice from our health experts is recommending the following precautionary measures.
- Washing of hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser;
- Stop handshakes;
- Maintain social distance with people;
- Stop touching eyes, nose and mouth;
- Practice cough hygiene by covering mouth and nose with tissue or sleeve or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing;
- Seek medical care whenever feeling unwell;
My Government, in the light of technical guidance from the World Health Organization, is implementing activities in preparation of the Coronavirus outbreak.
The aim of these activities is to prevent Coronavirus from being transmitted into Malawi and also to prepare the country to handle any case should a Coronavirus case be diagnosed.
Among many interventions;
- Government has developed a Response Plan. The total budget for this plan is about MK15 billion which is equivalent to US$20 million.
- My Government has provided MK2.5 billion as immediate funding towards the Response Plan.
- My Government appreciates the technical and financial support from development partners such as World Health Organization, Centre for Disease Control, Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunization, Department for International Development (DfID) through UNICEF and the Global Fund have provided towards the coronavirus.
- Despite my Government commitment and all donor support, there is still a gap. I, therefore, appeal for more support from the private sector and international community.
- We are screening for Coronavirus on all travelers arriving in Malawi through our borders and International Airports.
- Government is collaborating with WHO which is continuously monitoring the outbreak situation in all affected countries in order to guide our response.
My fellow Malawians,
At this juncture, I would like to assure the nation that the Malawi Government is doing everything possible to ensure that Coronavirus does not come into country.
Due to the threat of Corona Virus and the urgent need to seriously manage it, I have decided to declare ‘State of Disaster’ in the country. Consequently, Government is putting the following measures;
- Ministry of Health and Population is redeploying health personnel in all border posts and continue screening and surveillance of people in all entry points;
- Government has suspended hosting of international meetings and banned public servants from attending both regional and international meetings being hosted by affected countries. The ban has been extended to all people travelling on other government related activities such as sports;
- My Government is advising the general public to avoid non-essential travel to the affected countries;
- My Government has directed that all schools, colleges (including technical colleges), both public and private universities should be closed by Monday, 23rd March, 2020;
- My Government is restricting public gatherings to less than 100 people forthwith. This restriction applies to all gatherings including weddings, funerals, church, congregations, rallies, government meetings etc; The national security apparatus has being ordered into action to enforce these restrictions.
- My Government has banned travel of foreign nationals from countries highly affected by coronavirus disease. However, SADC countries are exempted. Returning residents and nationals from coronavirus affected countries will be subjected to self or institutional quarantine;
- Government will continue to monitor and review the situation and the restrictions from time to time within the next 30 days;
- My Government has temporarily suspended issuance of visa to citizens of countries highly affected by coronavirus;
- My Government will continue to provide updates on the disease and the restrictions imposed.
My government is aware that some of the interventions being implemented have a negative bearing on people’s right to enjoy some of their human rights enshrined in our Constitution such as the right to assemble, the right to movement, and the right to participate in economic activities.
My government is hoping that in pursuance of the greater national good, we will be able to reasonably limit such rights within what is attainable in our Constitutional framework.
It is my sincere hope that my colleagues on the political divide will tame their appetite to politicize the fight against Corona Virus. I have noted some unfortunate remarks from some political leaders on the fight against Corona virus. I hope it was just a temporary error of judgment. Corona Virus is not a joking matter.
The Corona virus threat demands that we all join hands and pull in one direction for us to win. Lets not politicize it.
Let me also speak to individuals that are using the Corona virus threat and the social media for political reasons and to express their personal hate. Stop creating panic. Stop spreading rumors on the virus. Your actions are frustrating the fight against the Corona Virus. Love your county. Be humane.
Spiritually, I call upon all Malawians of different denominations and faiths to turn to God in times of fear and uncertainty as we do in times of joy and celebration.
Let’s join together as we pray for God’s heart of love, mercy, and truth to dwell in us and show us how to face the challenges posed by coronavirus.
Let’s find comfort in God’s word from 2 Chronicles 7:14… and it reads….
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land’’.
We should not panic. Let us all unite in Prayer of faith to a God that answers prayer. With spiritual grace and scientific resilience, together, we shall overcome this epidemic.
In conclusion, Malawi realizes that we are in a global world where the impact of coronavirus can spill-over within the region and beyond.
Therefore, I would like to reiterate my appeal to the private sector, development partners and you my fellow citizens for more support towards the fight against coronavirus and its impact on the economy.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you
In light of the COVID-19 disease that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared as a pandemic, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), would like to provide guidelines to all education institutions in the country on how to manage the disease during school time as well as on holidays.
All institutions are requested to follow the guidelines prescribed below for the prevention and management of the Coronavirus for the protection against infection of learners, students, staff and the general public.
Malawi has so far not registered any case of COVID-19. However, it is advisable that as a nation we remain vigilant against infection of the disease.
WHAT IS COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus. ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’ The COVID-19 virus is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19?
Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. These symptoms are similar to the flu (influenza) or the common cold, which are a lot more common than COVID-19. This is why testing is required to confirm if someone has COVID-19.
HOW DOES COVID-19 SPREAD?
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (generated through coughing and sneezing). Individuals can also be infected from and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and touching their face (e.g., eyes, nose, mouth). The COVID-19 virus may survive on surfaces for several hours, but simple disinfectants can kill it.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR COVID-19?
Currently there is no available vaccine for COVID-19. However, many of the symptoms can be treated and getting early care from a healthcare provider can make the disease less dangerous. There are several clinical trials that are being conducted to evaluate potential therapeutics for COVID-19.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
More lessons are being drawn everyday about how COVID-19 affects people. It must be pointed out that everyone is at risk. However, older people, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, appear to be more at risk of developing severe symptoms. As this is a new virus, lessons are still drawn about how it affects children. It is possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, but so far there are relatively few cases of COVID-19 reported among children.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF CORONAVIRUS?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. However, some patients have muscle aches, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, and or diarrhoea. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment and others become infected but don't develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell.
People with cough, diﬃculty breathing, and or fever should seek medical attention urgently.
SPECIFIC GUIDELINES AND CHECKLIST FOR SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, TEACHERS, STAFF, PARENTS, GUARDIANS, LEARNERS AND STUDENTS.
- Schools are not allowed to receive visitors coming from outside the country unless approved by the Ministry.
- Promote and demonstrate regular hand washing and positive hygiene behaviours.
- Ensure soap and safe water is available at age-appropriate hand washing stations.
- Encourage frequent and thorough hand washing (at least for 20 seconds).
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol- based hand rub.
- Ensure adequate, clean and separate toilets or latrines for girls and boys.
- Clean and disinfect school buildings, classrooms and especially water and sanitation facilities at least once a day, particularly surfaces that are touched by many people (railings, lunch tables, sports equipment, door and window handles, toys, teaching and learning aids etc.)
- Increase air flow and ventilation (open windows, use air conditioning where available, etc.)
- Post signs encouraging good hand and respiratory hygiene practices.
- Ensure trash is removed daily and disposed of safely.
- Encourage students and staff to stay home if sick.
- Monitor absenteeism.
- Plan for digital and distance learning where possible.
- Be prepared to temporarily dismiss or close schools and cancel events on advisory.
- Teachers should check on every learner first thing in the morning before lessons begin so that if one is found with strange signs (difficulty in breathing, cold/cough, fever or flu) his/her parents can immediately be informed to come and pick their child.)
- Parents and guardians are encouraged to keep checking their children/wards and make sure that if they observe such signs on him/her, you do not send that child to school.
- Make sure children including grown ups drink water frequently so that the throat is not left dry and avoid fluids with ice.
- Prevent stigma by using facts and reminding students to be considerate of one another.
- Coordinate with the school to receive information and ask how you can support school safety efforts (though parent-teacher committees, etc.)
- Inform learners not to stigmatize their peers or tease anyone about being sick; they should always remember that the virus doesn’t follow geographical boundaries, ethnicities, age or ability or gender.
- Tell leaners to inform their parents, other family members, or a caregiver if they feel sick, and they should ask to stay home.
- Enlighten learners to focus on good health behaviours, such as covering coughs and sneezes with the elbow and washing hands frequently.
- Have children sit further apart from one another, they should keep enough space to not touch their friends.
- Contact sports and other activities should be greatly discouraged.
- Introduce the concept of social distancing (standing further away from friends, avoiding large crowds, not touching people if you don’t need to, etc.)
- Help children understand the basic concepts of disease prevention and control. Use exercises that demonstrate how germs can spread. For example, by putting coloured water in a spray bottle and spraying over a piece of white paper. Observe how far the droplets travel.
- Incorporate relevant health education into other subjects.
- Get information only from official and trusted sources.
PROPER HAND WASHING PROCESS
Step 1: Wet hands with safe running water
Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
Step 3: Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including backs of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds
Step 4: Rinse thoroughly with running water
Step 5: Dry hands with a clean dry cloth, single-use towel or hand drier, if available
The Ministry is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all learners and wards. These measures are not intended to raise alarm, but are implemented as a precaution even though there are no reported cases of Coronavirus in Malawi at present.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology encourages all parents and guardians to collaborate with the Ministry by following the news and implementing good hygiene and preventative measures as advised by Health Authorities.
Secretary for Education, Science and Technology
17th March, 2020
Government through the Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events, on Thursday (12th March, 2020) provided relief assistance to 507 households that were recently affected by heavy rains on Likoma and Chizumulu Islands.
Chief Relief and Rehabilitation Officer Fyawupi Mwafongo said incessant heavy rains that fell from mid-February to the first week of this month left houses, household property and foodstuffs damaged, a situation that prompted the Ministry to dispatch relief items to the islands using ships.
“The situation required immediate attention. We promptly dispatched relief items but we faced some hiccups along the way as transportation to the islands is a challenge.
“All in all, we have managed to provide the affected people with 507 bags of maize (each weighing 50kg), 50 bags of beans (each weighing 50kg) and 25 bags of salt (each weighing 20kg),” said Mwafongo, who advised the beneficiaries not to sell the relief items.
Mwafongo then called upon the islanders to pay attention to weather information for their safety.
“Heavy rains might continue falling in our areas, let us take necessary precautionary measures and ensure that the vulnerable, that is children, women and the elderly, are safe,” said Mwafongo, who also called upon the islanders to follow proper building guidelines and join hands in addressing environmental degradation.
Likoma District Council Chairperson Trevor Guru commended government for the provision of the relief assistance.
“The affected people were in dire need of relief assistance. This [provision of relief assistance] will go a long way towards alleviating challenges they were facing in the wake of the disaster,” said Guru.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday (11th March, 2020) donated 272 housing units (much improved and durable tents) to the Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events. The housing units will provide shelter to people displaced by various disasters.
Speaking in Lilongwe during the official handover ceremony of the units, UNHCR Country Representative to Malawi Fatima Mahommed-Cole said the donation signifies the cordial relationship that exists between the Malawi Government and the UN refugee agency.
“The donation symbolizes the strong partnership that exists between the Government of Malawi and the UNHCR. We are hopeful that the units will provide protection to the displaced people, who are the intended beneficiaries,” said Mahommed-Cole.
In his remarks, Secretary and Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs Wilson Moleni said the donation has come at the right time.
“Since the onset of the rainy season, over 2500 households have been displaced in Karonga District alone and have sought refuge in churches and primary schools due to heavy flooding. The donation will minimize the tendency of using classroom blocks as shelters during disasters, a situation that puts pressure on education facilities and halts learning processes.
“I, therefore, on behalf of the Malawi Government, commend the UNHCR for the timely donation and I call upon other disaster risk management stakeholders and organisations to emulate this gesture,” said Moleni.
Moleni further said that the UNHCR has been government’s long-time partner in alleviating the suffering of displaced persons, adding that in March last year, the UNHCR donated various shelter materials to people affected by the Cyclone-Idai induced floods that left over 87,000 people displaced.
In June last year, the UNHCR and the Malawi Government jointly provided a return package comprising maize, blankets, kitchen utensils, building materials and buckets; among others, to 7,088 Malawian and 412 Mozambican families who were displaced by the March 2019 Cyclone-Idai induced floods.
During the handover ceremony, the UNHCR also donated 36 housing units to the Ministry of Health. The donated housing units (308 in total) are valued at US$400,400.
Government through the Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events on Sunday (8th March, 2020) provided relief assistance to over 400 households that have been displaced by floods in Mchinji District.
Heavy rains that fell from 3rd to 5th March 2020 displaced 220 households in Traditional Authority Simphasi. Prior to the disaster, 218 households were displaced by heavy rains that poured between 25th and 28th February, 2020. The families sought refuge at Chioko Catholic Church.
Government, has since provided the displaced families with maize, beans and kitchen salt.
Speaking when he made a symbolic presentation of the relief items, Deputy Director of Disaster Response and Recovery Dyce Nkhoma said the displaced required immediate relief assistance.
“The families lost their property, including their foodstuffs and as government, we felt there was need to provide basic relief assistance. We will continue to assist the families until they return to their homes,” said Nkhoma who also advised the families to avoid wanton cutting down of trees saying the malpractice aggravates the occurrence of floods.
In his remarks, TA Simphasi commended government for the gesture, saying the assistance came at the right time.
Member of Parliament for the area (Mchinji Central Constituency) Jephter Mwale echoed Simphasi’s remarks.
“The assistance has come at the right time. We commend government for the gesture. The Ministry [of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events) is providing assistance in a number of heavily affected districts but thought it wise to assist us as well,” said Mwale.
Government through the Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events on Friday (March 6, 2020) provided relief assistance to families that have been affected by recent floods in Karonga District.
Heavy rains that have been falling since 24th January, 2020 have caused the flooding of rivers, a situation that has affected a cumulative total of 10,828 households, of which 2,252 have been displaced and have sought refuge in their relation’s houses and 13 camps set by the District Council.
Government through the Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events has been reaching out to the affected households with food and non-food items such as rice, beans and family tents. The latest provision of relief assistance follows floods that occurred on Tuesday, 3rd March, 2020.
Speaking in Karonga when he visited the affected people and made a symbolic presentation of the relief items, Secretary and Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs Wilson Moleni assured the affected of continued government support.
“Let me assure you that government will not forsake you. We will continue providing the much needed assistance as we work on a lasting solution. We have heard the calls for the construction of a dyke and let me assure you that we will seriously look into the request and see how best we can go about it,” said Moleni.
In his remarks, TA Karonga commended government and other humanitarian partners for providing the affected with relief assistance and called upon government and disaster risk management stakeholders to construct dykes in flood prone areas in the district, as a lasting solution to heavy flooding.
During the provision of the relief assistance, a well-wisher donated and demonstrated how to use water purifying kits.