Information will save more lives than medicine in the fight against Coronavirus in Malawi. Communities want information about Coronavirus and once they have it they want to know what they can do to protect themselves, their families and their neighbours. They are ready and waiting to engage. In the absence of this engagement, there is increased risk of stigmatization of the sick and outsiders, anger towards duty-bearers and of misinformation causing further anxiety.
Chiefs and local religious leaders are not currently equipped to lead their communities through the Covid crisis. If they cannot personally practice the 3 key behaviours (hand-washing, physical distancing and mask wearing) they cannot lead by example and therefore will not advocate these behaviours to their people.
In Mwambo Chiefdom Traditional Authority (TA), as in many other places, young Malawian adults’ low adoption of the 3 key behaviours (hand-washing, maskwearing and physical distancing) to prevent transmission means protecting the elderly and vulnerable is the most achievable, highest impact priority and public health message that will minimize suffering caused by Covid-19. Elderly people and their families are ready to take action, but need support in the form of soap, masks and actionable information that is adapted to the contexts and resources of their communities.
There is an urgent need to establish engaging community feedback mechanisms with all Malawian communities, that provides them with tailored, culturally appropriate, up-to-date, trusted and actionable advice, to protect themselves, their families, their communities and especially their elderly and vulnerable, and that listens to and answers their questions throughout the Coronavirus crisis.
This report shows how 9.6 million kwacha (€11,520) of funding spent in July and August has been used to make progress towards achieving these 5 objectives among the 45,219 people living within the catchment area of Likangala Health Centre in TA Mwambo Chiefdom, Zomba.
The report documents Covid-sensitive community engagement activities tested during this period and lessons learned from community members’ feedback. This report aims to inform the design and implementation of larger scale, low-cost community empowerment and feedback mechanisms to tackle the spread of Covid-19, help communities protect their vulnerable and to better understand other unmet needs in poor Malawian communities.