Malawi Update: latest COVID news

6th April 2021

Latest COVID news

Last October we reported that COVID, as a health issue, had not affected Malawi to any very significant extent. At that time, official statistics suggested fewer than 200 people had died. Just before Christmas that began to change and, through January and early February, the South African variant caused a major spike in cases. Schools were shut and other restrictions imposed. However, the news is that these measures have stabilised the situation once more. The present official death toll is now 1100 -1200  and  officially deaths figures average 4-5 per day – not good and almost certainly an under-estimate but, compared to Europe and the Americas, the situation is very encouraging indeed.

Nevertheless, schools shutting in 2020 led to many girls becoming pregnant and not returning to their education. So, although schools have now returned in Malawi, the Jan/Feb break is likely to have led to a further reduction in the number of girls in education. As it is, only 8% of children complete secondary school and most are boys. COVID will have reduced these numbers still further.

In addition, because of COVID, by the end of 2020 even more Malawians than usual were facing financial hardship and food poverty. It is too early for statistics but this year`s restrictions will have impacted still further on the economy and on the state of people`s lives.

How Birmingham is being asked to respond

A huge thank you to every person and every parish that responded to last October`s update. Through November and December the congregations of Birmingham gave more than £13,000 for Malawi – given our own COVID challenges a very impressive figure. As a result we were able to support the church and its ministry significantly more than we had anticipated - as well as church schools in becoming more COVID secure. The church in Malawi has now asked us for assistance in three particular ways:

  1. Container Lorry. For the moment COVID is under control. However, because even by the end of 2021  it is thought vaccines will have reached no more than 20% of the population, COVID will remain a significant threat with further spikes very possible. There is therefore a continuing need for PPE. In particular, church hospitals and parishioners are asking for masks, surgical face masks, face particulator (N95) masks, heavy duty gloves and aprons, goggles, disposable gowns, face shields and gumboots. If, on this year`s container lorry, we could at least send material from which Malawians can make masks, that would be great. If anyone has access to some of the more specialist PPE, that would be even better. It would also be wonderful if we could send basic bed linen and infra-red thermometers and batteries, as requested. To book space on this year`s lorry (leaving on 12th June) please contact Denese Ryan.
  2. Funding for Awareness raising. Very gradually, vaccines will start to be rolled out during 2021. However, there is a desperate need to dispel anti-vaccine myths and to promote good COVID prevention measures, especially in the remoter communities. The church is well placed to do this and wants to hold Community Awareness Days in 60 locations by the end of May. The cost will be slightly more than £5000. Any contributions from parishes to this would be very gratefully received. CofE Birmingham will start sending funding for this programme shortly. To make a donation please the Finance Team (making it clear what the donation is for)
  3. General funding for church. As explained in October, congregation numbers in Malawi inevitably dwindled through 2020. In addition, many members found themselves much poorer. Consequently the church is in an even more impecunious situation than usual. Basic priestly and pastoral ministry is under real threat with dioceses unable to pay clergy. Again, all help from Birmingham`s people and parishes would be fantastic. Again to make a donation, please contact the Finance Team.

Thank you for your continuing interest, support and prayers.

Paul Bracher
Chair of the Malawi Task Group