The first cases of COVID-19 were announced in Malawi on the 2nd April. The Government has made efforts to prepare the country by suspending gatherings of more than 100 people, closing primary and secondary schools and seeking to train health workers in how to deal with the virus.
However, Malawi has a very weak health infrastructure, a severe shortage of medical resources for treatment and only 27 ICU beds for a population of 18 million. So the current focus is on prevention: the promotion of good hygiene, handwashing and social distancing. In addition to government efforts NGOs such as Pump Aid are working to support vital prevention efforts.
A lack of access to water and sanitation is providing a huge barrier to basic forms of protection. At least 50% of Malawians are without access to safe water, resulting in many using contaminated, open water sources, often far away, with long queues and fees. Meanwhile, 60% of Malawians do not have access to proper sanitation, leading to high rates of open defecation, with no hand washing.
Pump Aid’s Response
Pump Aid’s expertise is water, sanitation and hygiene, and so we are working with communities to ensure access to safe water and sanitation facilities, and that positive hygiene behaviour messaging is promoted, in line with the focus on prevention, especially handwashing. We are also supporting small-scale farmers with low-cost irrigation to keep them cultivating and their families fed.
Promoting water, sanitation and hygiene at pre-schools
Community Based Childcare Centres (pre-schools) are part of the Malawian government’s early years development strategy, investing in future generations through safe environments in which they can learn, grow and thrive. Whilst many of the preschools will be closed, villagers and children will still use the facilities, so it is vital they are in good condition. It also gives us an opportunity to promote that all important handwashing behaviour.
We are supporting the youngest children and members of surrounding communities through:
- Checking handwashing facilities and promoting good hygiene behaviour
- Ensuring pumps are working
- Spreading messaging around social distancing
Reliable water, sanitation and hygiene for rural communities. Vital.
Reliable access to clean, safe water and improved sanitation is fundamental in the prevention of the spread of coronavirus.
Working with our network of entrepreneurs and District Councils, we are checking that pumps are functioning and that communities have access to reliable water and sanitation.
We are also ensuring that positive hygiene behaviour is promoted within communities: frequent and proper handwashing with clean water and soap. We have developed health promotion materials to distribute and are working with community stakeholders to ensure messaging is getting out.
Longer-term food security for farmers
As Malawi enters the winter season (April – September), it is crucial for farmers to cultivate (with small-scale irrigation) in order to improve food security later in the year. Other outbreaks, such as Ebola in Sierra Leone, had a severe negative impact on food security as farmers weren’t cultivating.
As 85% of the country’s population are dependent on small-scale farming, this could lead to large-scale food insecurity for the population, and severely reduced livelihoods for farmers.
We are working with District Council Agricultural Officers and farmers groups to ensure that small-scale farming continues (following safe protocols) over the coming months. We are working to ensure that winter cultivation is maximised, providing short-term irrigation and package support, to improve the productive capacity for small-scale farmers and to make sure the virus doesn’t create food insecurity.
What You Can Do
Access to water and sanitation, and positive hygiene behaviour, including handwashing, is now needed more than ever.
If you would like to support children and communities in rural Malawi to keep themselves safe, then please donate.
£5 could provide soap for 5 pre-schools
£10 could help provide irrigation training for a small-scale farmer
£15 could provide the materials for handwashing/hygiene behaviour community promotions