Newsletter COVID-19

Dear Kudimba friends,

In normal circumstances this Kudimba newsletter should have reached you nearly two months ago, but due to Covid-19 nothing has been normal in the last two months; neither for the people who read this letter, in whichever part of the world you are, nor for the children and staff in Lifuwu.

As the Covid-19 virus spread globally it was also slowly starting to reach Malawi. However, more than the virus itself, the rumours, misinformation and fear about the virus reached Kudimba first. Our actions were paralysed as we didn’t know what to anticipate. Most of the Kudimba children have a weaker immune system and the healthcare services in Malawi are underprepared for a pandemic. With 20 intensive care beds in the whole country and ill-equipped staff we feared the worst if the virus was to proliferate. To date there are 43 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Malawi. As far as we know none of the children or staff of Kudimba have been affected. There is very limited testing capacity for Covid-19, so that is one important factor for the low numbers. But it still seems like Covid-19 is not spreading as fast in Malawi as it does in some other parts of the world. There is not yet a clear explanation as to why the rate is slower. Is it the climate, is it because on average the population is younger, is it because poor people travel less so there is less spread, is there is link with malaria or some childhood vaccinations? It is too soon to tell.

A visit to Shamila’s family

The more dramatic effect of the virus for Malawi is the impact of the restrictions from the government: the transport and food prices have gone up, and for people who live hand-to-mouth, this is the real cause of their hardship. Accessing healthcare for non-Covid related problems is even more challenging than before, with life-threatening consequences. Most of the families in Lifuwu, who are usually just about coping to get by, are now struggling to afford food. Self isolation and increased measures of hygiene are almost impossible for the poorest, most people have to walk to the communal borehole in the village to get water for their household, some families can’t even afford soap. So life in Covid-19 times is very complicated in Malawi, even without an enormous immediate threat of the virus.

Chisomo

Despite our strong intention to keep going for as long as possible with our daycare programme, the situation in Kudimba was becoming complicated. We knew that at this moment more than ever the children needed the food, the care and hygiene they receive in Kudimba, but staff and parents were becoming scared. Recently only five children were attending Kudimba’s education centre and four of those kids were coughing at that time. That is nothing unusual as in Malawi kids are often coughing and sniffling -due to situations like households cooking on open woodfires. However, under the circumstances these coughs sounded much more ominous. Due to Covid-19, public gatherings have been suspended and schools and educational establishments have closed, affecting Kudimba’s student Austin, who is in his final year studying public health at university. In short, our normal routine has been disturbed in every part of its usual pattern which has caused a lot of unease…. On the advice of the District Health Officer and a Medical Officer from Salima, we decided to close the Kudimba doors temporarily.

As Austin has not been able to continue his university degree, he has joined the Kudimba team in organising an outreach programme. Two of our other staff members have stepped up as well; our teachers Antony and Alinafe. Antony is maintaining the infrastructure together with Mr. Gombachika, who looks after the garden. Austin and Alinafe are in charge of the outreach team. They visit all the Kudimba children at home on a regular basis, to explain about Covid-19, they clarify what families can do to protect themselves better, they distribute soap and food to those who need it the most.

In the meantime, there has been an opportunity for emergency funding from the Belgian Province of West-Flanders. With their support Kudimba is setting up a partnership with the local Baptist Hospital in Senga Bay to provide essential training and equipment for healthcare facilities and staff in the area. The Lifuwu Health Centre will also be involved in the activities.

The programme we have designed has 9 steps and looks as follows:

  • Training for healthcare staff of the Baptist Hospital in Senga Bay
  • Education session for Chiefs and community volunteers in Senga Bay
  • Training for healthcare staff of the Lifuwu Health Centre
  • Education session for Chiefs, community volunteers and Kudimba staff in Lifuwu
  • Personal Protective Equipment for all healthcare staff
  • Tracing, testing, isolation and treatment of Covid-19 patients
  • Providing locally made facemasks for the community volunteers
  • Community awareness campaign with a mobile van
  • Monitoring, evaluation and reporting

The training sessions will obviously mainly entail Covid-19 response, but we will broaden these sessions with information on how to deal with other infectious diseases such as cholera, malaria, HIV/Aids, etc… We are excited to start the programme this coming week.
For Austin, this is such an interesting opportunity to be involved with as he puts his public health studies into practice. We are looking forward to restarting our daycare activities again soon and also to receive visitors and students for their placements. A normal Kudimba newsletter will be published when this is the case with more Kudimba updates.

Take care & stay safe
The Kudimba team