Malawi COVID-19 response gets Commonwealth award

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A health worker attends to a COVID-19 patient at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital COVID-19 male ward in Blantyre, Malawi on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Malawi faces a resurgence of COVID-19 that is overwhelming the southern African country where a presidential residence and a national stadium have been turned into field hospitals in efforts to save lives. (AP Photo/Thoko Chikondi)
A woman receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Blantyre, Malawi, on March 26, 2021. (Xinhua/Joseph Mizere)

A citizen-funded COVID-19 effort in Malawi has received an award from Queen Elizabeth for its work fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

The queen said the initiative shows the utmost transparency in the use of its privately raised funding.

Malawi’s COVID Response Private Citizens Initiative started in January when the country’s hospitals were overwhelmed with coronavirus patients and lacked resources at the peak of the second wave of the pandemic.

Public hospitals were in short supply of oxygen cylinders, concentrators, diagnostics kits, and other equipment essential to treat COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Thandie Majenda Hara, the deputy lead organizer for the initiative, said: “At some point, we had a patient who literally went to Kamuzu Central Hospital and put up an SOS on his Facebook page saying that, apparently, they did not have enough flow meters, so he couldn’t have access to oxygen, as well as patients that were in the ward with him. And it was that particular cry for help that was a trigger for what in the end became this initiative.”

She said the group spearheaded a crowdfunding campaign that raised $286,000 to buy oxygen cylinders, ventilators, personal protective equipment, and other items most needed in public hospitals.

The initiative also brought food to health workers, fixed ambulances, and repaired some damaged infrastructure inside hospitals.

The Commonwealth Points of Light award was given at a time when police in Malawi have arrested more than 64 government officials after an audit revealed misuse of $8 million in government funds allocated for the fight against COVID-19.

 

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