Malawi, a beautiful country, but one of the world’s poorest

Malawi, is not without its challenges. But, so far, it has not reported any cases of Coronavirus – one of the few countries in Africa to remain free of the disease. But it’s braced for devastation, if it comes.

Malawi is used to dealing with the impact of transmitted diseases, like cholera and HIV/Aids. But, it’s feared, it is not equipped for something as fast-spreading as Covid-19.

A report in the papers this weekend claims only 20 people a day can be tested. Those are likely to be in the big cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre.

But 90% of the population lives in the rural areas. There is a weak communication network, so how far and wide advice is spreading is difficult to predict.

The Guardian newspaper spoke to a senior Oxfam official Max Lawson, who said “If Covid-19 gets in, it will spread rapidly across the country and many people will die. The health system is very weak.

“We fear that it will come. If it does, it will overwhelm us, and be worse than cholera, which we had badly in 2013, and hunger in 2002. he says.

I was last in Malawi two years ago – not for long, on that occasion. I was visiting a former communications regulator for the national government, who was engaged in trying to improve the eco-system across the country.

“Access to the internet is a human-right,” said Richard Chisalla, a man committed to improving the lives of the most needy in his country.

“We have connected a community of about 30,000 refugees, living about 40 kilometres from the capital Lilongwe.”

Dzaleka camp is one of the biggest in East Africa, its residents some of the poorest people, in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Richard says “60% of the population are under the age of 45.

“But without affordable access to digital technology we are going to be jealously guarding the digital divide,” he says.

It’s a thought echoed by hairdresser and beautician Victoria Salilika.

Speaking to us today, she said lockdown gives everyone a chance to re-imagine the economy.

“One thing this pandemic is trying to teach us is that, sometimes, it’s good to do simple acts of kindness, by sharing our skills for free,” she said.

“Work doesn’t always have to be about money.

“The best thing you can do is change someone’s life through sharing what you know.”

She says that, though everyday interaction has changed, maybe forever, what will come next may be better than what there was before.

“I know (hair and beauty) salons are going to be closed for business.

“But I can make tutorials teaching people how to do their hair and they can be able to do it at home without travelling,” she said.

“Plus many people will stop earning money like they used to. So, it’s cheaper that way.”

If any of you have any doubt about the spirit of resilience and innovation in Malawi, can I draw your attention to an amazing movie, available on Netflix.  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the true story of a youngster who saved his community, by inventing, designing and engineering a windmill, from scrap material he found at the tip. Africa has survived many devastating events. Perhaps Malawi will emerge stronger from Pandemic of Coronavirus.

As we were writing this piece we will told that the first four cases in Malawi had been identified.

We continue to reflect the experiences of a world in corona crisis. If you have a story to share, please drop me a line. As we remain #underthemask.




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