Monday, January 24

Misused funds, too few vaccines: we are fighting Covid and corruption in Malawi | Madalitso kateta

IIn January 2021, Malawian human rights activist Paul Msoma wrote that he was in the central hospital in Kamuzu, struggling to breathe. The hospital had oxygen cylinders but no flow meters, the necessary instrument to connect you to them. I was left wondering where the funds that had been released for the country’s Covid-19 response were going. “My situation is getting worse and I urgently need oxygen,” Msoma said. wrote on facebook. “Anyone who can help urgently, please help by donating this very device.”

Kamuzu Central Hospital is one of the largest referral hospitals in Malawi and it did not seem right that such a large hospital did not have oxygen flow meters, which are very basic medical equipment costing around £ 18 a piece. This was at a time when the government had released over £ 5.6 million for the Covid-19 response effort.

Tragically Msoma died a few days later.. His call for help opened a can of worms and made many realize that these funds were being abused. Malawian influencers organized a Citizen-led Covid-19 response and the government regained consciousness and opened an investigation into Covid-19 spending.

An eventual report from the country’s Ombudsman’s Office Following Nsoma’s comments they indicated that 79.8% of the funds were misused, including money spent on non-Covid items such as appropriations for government officials. A subsequent audit by the country auditor general. confirmed extensive abuse.

But, to date, none of the officers involved in the abuse of the funds have been charged, despite the fact that the president, Lazarus Chakwera, promised that all those who abuse these funds would face the law. The common belief on the street is that some of the people who misused the funds were government officials with political connections who may have been sharing the spoils with politicians.

Meanwhile, while people learned how the previous funds were used, Chakwera asked for another £ 15.8 millionprimarily from the Global Fund The Covid-19 response mechanism and the IMF’s Quick Credit Facility to help address the effects of the coronavirus, will be published.

As it is, people are still dying and the country does not have vaccines to give to its entire population. Malawi, January 2 This year, a total of 1,494,459 (7.6%) people with at least one vaccination, while only 712,848 (3.6%) have been fully vaccinated. Altogether, the country has recorded 76,295 Covid-19 cases and 2,378 deaths, a fatality rate of 3.1%.

Covid’s response in Malawi has been hit hard by rampant corruption. This affected not only the acquisition of vital items, but also areas such as public awareness and outreach. Vaccine hesitancy is a huge problem. Today, nearly all major government hospitals in Malawi, including those in hard-to-reach areas has some vaccinations but it is feared that even the current supply will not be fully utilized due to doubts. In May 2021 the country destroyed about 20,000 doses of expired Covid-19 vaccines. This could have been better managed if the funds for the response to the epidemic had been used properly in the early stages of the spread of the disease.

Much of the doubt about vaccines in Malawi stems from religious beliefs, with some religious leaders telling their followers that the vaccines are prophesied in the Bible and are the initial stages of the “666” mark, the mark of the beast. . They say that all citizens of the world must have a brand to be able to participate in any business. There is another myth that has been taking turns, where many women believe that the vaccines will make them infertile. It is difficult to reach out and counter local misinformation, as 82.57% of Malawi’s population live in rural areas, and around 65.8% of the population is literate.

Currently there seems to be more commitment on the part of the country’s leaders to vaccinate the population. The government, with the support of different health organizations, has embarked on a nationwide campaign where people with mobile clinics within their communities and the result has been a spike in vaccination.

The country’s Health Minister also recently announced that Covid-19 vaccination will be mandatory for some public servants, such as police officers, health workers, teachers, and journalists. But this has not gone well with some rights groups, including the Malawi Human Rights Commission, which has opposed mandatory status on the grounds that vaccination should be a personal choice.

The recent surge in vaccination is welcome and overdue. But there is still a need for active citizen participation to hold leaders accountable for how every penny of the country’s Covid response fund is being used and to educate others about the dangers of the virus. However, this will not be possible until the country’s Anti-Corruption Office is properly trained and Chakwera commits to full transparency of all Covid expenses.

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