‘Prevention is better than cure’, that is what the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) believes in.
The department has provided approximately K1.7 billion (£1.8 million) to UNICEF to strengthen Malawi’s ability to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus which causes a disease called COVID-19.
Malawi has no confirmed case as of today, but the outbreak has affected 197 countries with over 21,000 deaths and over 450,000 confirmed cases as of Friday this week, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Africa only has over 2,000 confirmed cases across 39 countries.
The worst fear for Malawi is on the confirmed cases in its neighbouring countries, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Head of DFID in Malawi, David Beer said in a statement on Friday that they decided to support the Ministry of Health to improve airport and border screening capacity, train health workers to respond to a potential outbreak, and equip emergency treatment units with medical and intensive care supplies apart from the water and sanitation facilities so that they are ready to treat potential cases.
“We recognise the need to act fast, to help Malawi prepare for the threat of COVID-19. This is why we have provided £1.8m with immediate effect, to set up emergency treatment units and rapid response teams, and critically, to boost public health messaging. I call on all Malawians to follow official advice, especially on hand washing and social distancing,” he said.
UNICEF Malawi Representative, Rudolf Schwenk concurred with Beer’s words saying the funding will go a long way in the prevention of the pandemic.
“There is no vaccine or specific antiviral medicine to treat this virus. The best course of action is to avoid infection. UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Health and Population to develop contingency plans and communication materials. The support from DFID is timely and will assist our ongoing collaborative effort with the Government of Malawi to prevent the virus from spreading in Malawi,” he said.
Secretary for Health and Population in the Ministry, Dan Namarika thanked DFID for the donation saying it is timely.
“In the absence of effective treatment, raising awareness of the risk factors for Corona virus infection and the protective measures individuals and communities can take, is the only way to reduce human infection. Thanks to DFID through UNICEF for this very timely support to the Malawi Government,” he said.
DFID has also helped set up the testing facility in the national Public Health laboratory in Lilongwe apart from helping to ensure citizens receive accurate, reliable information on the preventive measures.