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COVID-19 in Malawi: Invisible, but Inevitable

As we near the end of March, apparently there are no recorded cases of COVID-19 caused by the new coronavirus in Malawi yet. 

Yet. 

Despite this, President Peter Mutharika has declared a national disaster in an effort to prevent cases of the virus in the country, closing all schools, colleges, both private and public universities since Mar. 23.

But the virus is on its doorstep, if not hiding in plain sight already. South Africa has the highest number of confirmed cases in Africa and there are some 100,000 Malawian migrants working there. Neighbour Tanzania has cases too.


Public gatherings in Malawi are now restricted to less than 100 people, a figure that's many multiples the guidelines in most wealthier countries at this stage. In Ireland, 4 people are the maximum in a public group. Still it does show some recognition of the likely trauma that will be suffered by a country and a people already under the hammer of poverty and disease. 

However, out in the rural areas, amongst the villages and chiefs, there seems little awareness of coronavirus and the inevitable medical crisis that will follow its spread. Washing one's hands doesn't mean a lot when there's no running water. TB is already a huge daily threat. HIV AIDS is rife. Immune systems are wrecked, never mind compromised. Our education projects are on hold until the pupils return, but what will be the broader community backdrop?

We live in hope that it isn't as catastrophic for the developing world - and particularly for our friends and colleagues in Malawi - as it has proven in the developed.