PERSONAL STORY 2
Joseph Makwakwa -CISER
We've had a Zoom-meeting with our contact person from Malawi, Joseph Makwakwa. Joseph is the head of the NGO called CISER. It's an organisation that does several interventions to enhance self-reliance among the residents of local communities. We asked Joseph about how the country is dealing with the Corona situation over there and how his organisation get involved in this pandemic.
Joseph told us that the people in Malawi don't see the seriousness of the coronavirus at all. At this moment there are 'only' 3 deaths, so the people don't understand why the virus is called such a threat to the country. Joseph, on the other hand, is aware of what the consequences are of the Corona virus. He says that they need to take serious measures right now since the virus hasn't affected a lot of people yet. He is convinced that only then they won't have that abundance of corona case in the future. He thinks It's very important to close the borders so that people, who want to return from certain countries and might got infected, won't cause even more spread of the virus among the people of Malawi.
One of the interventions of CISER is that they help in the field of education in Mangochi. They own libraries to get people to read more. Also, there interventions are based on keeping girls at school. In a lot of families, you see that girls get dropped out of school because they can simply work at home. CISER wants to stimulate girls and woman to go to school so in the future they are willing to send their own children to school as well. This way CISER is trying to keep girls in school so that there is a change for them as well to get educated for a job. In the following link is a link to a documentary about one of the projects CISER did. It's interesting to watch to get a view of what CISER does for their communities.
Right now, the focus of CISER lays on the COVID-19 virus. They tell people how big of a deal this virus is, how important it is to wash hands, have that social distance and take this virus seriously. They are trying to make sure people see the danger of the virus so that they will follow the measures that are taken by the government. This way they are trying to slow down the spread of the virus among the people.
Right now, the schools, libraries etc. are all closed. It isn't a way to keep the education going at home because they simply don't have the facilities to do that. He says that a lockdown won't work for a country as Malawi. Here in the Netherlands people get money from the government to make sure everyone is still able to get enough food, pay rent etc. In Malawi the government doesn't has the money and doesn't give money to their people to do the same. So, a lockdown will result in a lot of unemployed people, which will lead to no income. People will face hunger and there is a big change people will develop several different diseases what also will lead to a lot of sickness among the population.
We asked about charities who might give money or food to make a lockdown work. He told us that Germany and some other countries give some money. However, donors are very careful with donating money because they are not sure where it all will go.
Another problem for the communities in Mangochi is that a lot of people are fisherman as profession. The fishermen are forced to fish to make sure to have a meal for their family at the end of the day. However, the other side of this fishing is that there is no way they can keep the distance of 1.5 meter. This way, the virus gets the change to spread a lot faster than they want to. Also, the markets are still open. People don't really care and just keep going to the markets. Joseph told us they don't keep the corona virus in mind and a lot of them take it for granted.
Personally, with Joseph everything goes very well. He is busy making sure people get aware of the danger of the virus.
We've had a second Zoom-meeting with Joseph. Among the people and how they are acting regarding to the corona virus, there were no major changes. Although, we had some questions about the political situation in Malawi. Right now, there are political parties' campaigns going on since the election for the new president will take place in June. Joseph let us know that the government efforts are compromised by political parties' campaigns. Below there are some illustrations of how it has been seen there.
As you can see a lot of people were attending those campaigns organised by political parties. Joseph told us that most of them are not provided with protection. They are not using anything to protect their face or nose. He said that's is such a big problem.
We also asked if the sudden huge number of positive cases that appeared in the time between now and May 20th, is because of all those political parties campaigns. He responded that the rapid growing number of positive cases is probably from the people who returned from South Africa. He told about that some people work in South Africa and arrived with busses in Malawi during that time. Those people got all tested with a lot of people tested positive. So, all those new cases are basically from the people that came from outside of Malawi.
We heard about the many people that escaped the stadium they were supposed to be in quarantine for. We asked Joseph about this and he told us that some people got frustrated and are going back into the communities now which is causing another danger because the people who got escaped will get back to their families soon and the changes that they will infect other people are really high. The government is investigating what happened and if someone didn't do their job right to look out for them. Also, the police is looking for the people who got escaped.
Joseph is still believing the best thing to do is to close the borders. He said that the major challenges are the management of the virus. The government should have organised places where people who got returned from other countries can quarantine and give proper treatments to these people. What people wanted was something to eat. So, what they did was going to the markets and shopping malls, which makes sense when you are in hunger. Joseph said that even the borders are closed, the government should find a proper way to manage the pandemic.
We asked what Joseph thought about the way the government is handling the pandemic right now. His answer was that they definitely must improve, that the management is beyond average now. He doesn't understand how they are using the resources for this pandemic. The government could have done more to make sure that all those that are positive that are proper quarantine. They don't have proper centres. Even the stadium where the people got, the government is not doing enough. He said it's not about the quality of resources, but about how we are managing those resources, how are they going to manage the cases, he thinks that's where the challenge is.
We asked about what Josephs idea is of how to manage this pandemic. He said that the government should make sure that they have the facilities to create a proper area for the people who have to be quarantined so that they don't have to go out to look for food or soap e.g., that they don't go back to the communities and infect others. He thinks that's where they are losing. They have to make sure that there are people that look out for the people who have to be in quarantine and have them there for fourteen days so that way they can go back to their families after two weeks of quarantine. Also, Joseph told us that a lot of people just don't have anything to do now because all the schools and businesses are closes. Many teenage girls get pregnancies because they have simply nothing to do. Joseph thinks that the government should reopen the schools again, because if you keep them in school, they are somehow secured.
Eventually, our question was why specifically those people are going into the communities to go look for food and whatsoever. Why does not somebody else buy it for them? How does that work? Joseph said they need to create a good environment for the people. They are human beings. If you just say to them that they are tested positive and must stay at a centre to quarantine, they are not provided with food and soap. And since they don't see the danger of the virus, they are going to look for the food and soap by themselves. Joseph says they are only looking from in terms of health and not from a social aspect as well. He says that he things they need to combine those two aspects.
CISER is still focussing on the fisherman and farmers around the Malawi Lake. A lot of those people are not following the procedures, so CISER is trying to make sure that all the beaches have proper sanitation and to make sure that the people are following the measures that are taken. Also, this summer the farmers were supposed to be selling tabaco at the auction, however because of Corona they can't be at the auction where they were able to sell there tabaco. This is a threat to their source of income. CISER is trying to find a way to help those farmers.
The fact that there are no tourists coming in Malawi anymore is also a threat for especially the food security and nutrition security.
Joseph let us know that they don't have a fund to collect money for the organisation, they just do this within the organisation. So, we asked if they get great response from the people over there for what they do for the communities. He said that people are not aware of what is really going on. They don't see Corona as a threat and take this issue seriously. Also, many communities don't have radios or televisions to keep updated about what is going on. It's difficult to reach those people. The politics what are going on now, do also not have a great impact on the people regarding to the awareness of the virus. Because political parties are organizing those campaigns where no one really follows the measures, people don't get the right impression of how they are supposed to deal with the virus. Joseph said the people focus are now on the politics and not on the virus.
Everyone in Josephs family is doing well. They make sure that no one is going out unless it's necessary and they keep the distance. Josephs works mostly at home and is with his family. They are making sure that they don't take chances