The Health Desk conducted review and mentorship of volunteers in Chitipa and Karonga Districts under a community TB care project entitled Invest for impact against TB/HIV. Meetings took place from the 23rd of March this year.
The purpose of these meetings was to monitor progress of activities including community education of TB, sputum sample collection and supporting of patients on TB treatment.
During the meetings, project staff took an opportunity to mentor volunteers. Project staff also monitor data collection tools such as the community presumptive TB register, monthly report form and others to ensure that they are correctly filled. Project staff from the Diocese work in partnership with Ministry of Health (MoH) health workers specifically The District Environmental Health Officer (DEHO) and the District TB Officer (DTO). At community level, TB Focal persons from health facilities and community HSAs support volunteers in their day to day operation.
The goal of this project is to reduce illness and deaths from TB through strengthening TB activities at Community level. Specifically, the project intends to increase the number of TB cases diagnosed and to increase number of patients treated for TB confirmed positive.
This project is funded by Global Fund through Actionaid (Malawi) and Episcopal conference of Malawi (ECM). During this first quarter review meetings, 10 sputum collection points in Chitipa and 8 in Karonga were visited. Generally it was noted that there is slow progress of activities since mid-last year. Contributing factors include low motivation of volunteer due to few volunteers participating in review meetings, wearing out of personal protective equipment and enablers. Long distance with poor transport means further impede volunteer movement to health facilities. This has resulted in low yield of presumptive cases as well as cases confirmed positive.
Actionaid the principal recipient (PR) of the project promised to replenish supplies. Karonga Diocese staff is encouraging volunteers to workers tirelessly in spite of these hardships especially educating communities on TB.
‘Public resources need to be well accounted for’, Mr Msukwa, the Karonga District Council Finance Committee Chairperson. This was stated in his speech during Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) dissemination for the Construction of Hara maternity wing at Chankholombe School.
the PET dissemination was organised by the Justice and Peace Desk of Karonga Diocese under the Project OSISA Health Governance. under this project, the Desk has managed to empower community members to following up on expenditures as well as projects done using resources from public funding baskets. the desk has volunteers known as the Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) Focal Team, who spearhead the tracking system and empower others. the purpose of the PET process is to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the management of funds in the Health Sector.
Hara Maternity Wing was constructed using Community Managed Social Economic Fund. By design is the project under the fund is supposed to be managed by the community members, who receive training and technical guidance from the district councils relevant officers. However, Hara Maternity wing was constructed with no monitoring and supervision from the Council, the committees chosen did not have enough training, which affected the management of the contract with the Contractor and procurement of building materials problematic.
From the PET conducted, an amount of about MK 65,000 was misappropriated, including other already procured materials. It was also revealed by the Project Implementation team that MK 500,000 was taken forcefully by the contractor.
On way forward it was recommended that there should be New Project Management team to continue the project when funds are mobilized, the one present was doubled as the Health Center Management Committee and Project Implementation Team. so the project lacked local oversight and monitoring.
Coronavirus disease, pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan, China, was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 31st December, 2019. The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January, 2020.
On 11 February 2020, WHO announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID – 19; and declared it a pandemic on 11 March, 2020. As of 5 May, 2020, the world has registered 3,659,103 positive cases and 252,573 deaths. As of the same date, Malawi had recorded 41 confirmed cases and 3 deaths; with one case recorded in Karonga.
The Diocese of Karonga has taken a number of steps in Covid-19 preparedness and response. This therefore presents the actions taken by the Diocese of Karonga and progress made in the same.
Establishment of Advisory Committee to the Bishop on COVID-19 (ACB)
On 23rd March, 2020, Bishop Martin Anwel Mtumbuka presided over extra-ordinary meeting on coronavirus involving Curia staff members, Lusubilo Community Care staff and Tuntufye Radio representative. As there were variations in the level of preparedness and response, need for coordinated efforts at Diocese level was felt. To this effect, the Bishop established Advisory Committee to the Bishop on Covid-19. The Committee is chaired by the Caritas Secretary, Mwawi Shaba, and it comprises of selected members of Curia staff, representatives of Diocesan health facilities, Lusubilo Community Care and Tuntufye FM Radio.
The aim of the ACB is to strengthen the protection of people within the Diocese of Karonga from COVID-19 and provide treatment and care for those suffering from the disease.
Procured and installed life-saving Oxygen Concentrators and power generators in all its 5 health facilities
The Diocese of Karonga has so far procured and installed 12 oxygen concentrators and 5 generators in all five health facilities of the Diocese, namely; Atupere Community Hospital, Hope Clinic, Kaseye Health Centre, St Anne’s Community Hospital and St Clara Clinic.
Refurbishing and Customizing an Ambulance
The Diocese if in the process of refurbishing and customizing an ambulance to the level of an Intensive Care Unit for ferrying critical patients to Mzuzu Central Hospital from areas under the Diocese of Karonga.
Setting up an Ambulance Rapid Response Team
A specialised team comprised of 10 medical, nursing personnel and drivers to be stationed at the headquarters to provide emergency response when the pandemic becomes acute in the Diocese. Members are drawn from the 5 health facilities of the Diocese. These will be supported by the government district hospitals.
Conducting training to all staff in all the 5 heath facilities
Workers in Diocesan health facilities have been trained about COVID-19, preventive measures, contact tracing and operation of treatment equipment.
Procure and deliver PPE to all workers of the Diocese including in all the 5 health facilities
Carrying awareness to staff, priest and local Church leaders
Training of Pastoral Council members from 12 parishes in the Diocese
Promoting prevention measures in all Diocese establishments including offices and prayer centres and promoting the same in families
Figure 3: Faithful wash hands before & after Sunday Liturgy at Chibanji Prayer Centre before suspension of public liturgical celebrations
Broadcasting radio programme and messages
The Diocesan Radio, Tuntufye FM, broadcasts countless programmes and messages on COVID-19 reaching out to over 1 million people in the north of Malawi
Developing and disseminating posters on COVID-19
A total of 145300 posters have been produced and distributed in the Diocese of Karonga
Archdiocese of Munich
The Mathile Foundation
Major James Nyirenda
Archdiocese of Padarborn
Activities the Diocese wants to do next
Raising mass awareness regarding COVID-19 especially in rural communities.
Support communities and various public places with personal hygiene facilities; e.g. masks, gloves and hand washing facilities.
Economically support vulnerable families affected by the COVID-19.
Continue supporting health facilities in the treatment of COVID-19 cases including supplying PPE.
For more information about these and for those who would want to help please contact the ACB leadership as follows:
By Mons Denis S. Chitete – CATHEDRAL ADMINISTRATOR*
From the month of November 2019 to April 2020, Karonga District experienced heavy rains and strong winds, which led to many families being displaced either because of floods or roofs of their houses being blown-off. The children and the elderly are the most affected.
Some of the most affected areas in our parish are: Baka, Vilaule, Mwamasapa, Mpata, Silu and Mbwiri.
The floods washed away household assets such as; food reserves, livestock, beds, beddings and kitchen utensils. The strong winds blew off the roofs from many houses and in some cases literally destroyed the houses.
The victims of the floods and strong winds were re-located to a few camps which the government and some non-governmental organisations created in the upper lands.
Even though some of the victims have gone back to their homes, there are many who still live in the camps. These camps are generally congested. This means that the occupants are prone to communicable diseases due to poor sanitation. Some camps do not have enough toilets, posing serious health challenges to the occupants. The people sleep without mosquito nets and this is exposes them to malaria, which is the highest cause of deaths especially, among children and elderly in Malawi.
Even before the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the floods affected the education of school-going children because some of them were locked in the camps when it was too dangerous for them to walk to school. On 10th march, one school pupil was swept away by the flood water on his way to school in Kalongolera Village in Karonga District. His dead body was recovered after several days. On the other hand, some schools were being used as temporary camps for the victims of the floods which meant that most school activities had to be suspended.
Just like children in the flooded areas were not able to go to school, the same children and their parents also found it difficult to go to church to pray. So, Church attendance during the same period dropped drastically.
In my opinion the recovery programme to the victims of the floods and strong winds ought to be twofold: material and spiritual.
At the moment, some of the materials that are immediately required to support the affected families include; food items (maize, beans, cooking oil), mosquito nets, chlorine, clothes, tents, beddings, cups and plates, mats and mattresses.
In the long term, many families need help to reconstruct their houses while some families may need to be relocated.
Spiritually, the victims of the floods and strong winds need a lot of prayers and accompaniment. Some have lost faith in the Good God.
Reading from John 14:1we learn that Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; trust in God and trust in me.” John 14:27b “Do not be troubled; do not be afraid.”
Romans 8: 18-21a “Everything that has been made in the world is weak. It is not that the world wanted it to be that way. God allowed it to be that way. Yet there is hope. 21 Everything that has been made in the world will be set free from the power that can destroy.”
Romans 8:31”What shall we say after this? If God is with us, who shall be against us?”
We hope and pray that the religious leaders, government and other well-wishers will find ways of materially and spiritually assisting the victims of the floods and strong winds to recover and return to their normal life as soon as possible.
Here-below are some of the photos of the situation in Karonga.
*The writer is the Vicar General of the Diocese of Karonga and Administrator of St Joseph the Worker Cathedral Parish