By Chalo Mvula
As Malawi continues to encourage its people to get the Covid Vaccine, NBS Bank has donated money to the tune of K9.6 million kwacha to help accelerate vaccine programmes especially in the rural districts of the country. The donation has been made to a group called Malawi International Covid-19 Response group (MICRG) , a diaspora well wishers group that has been at the forefront of various Covid 19 preventative initiatives at an event that took place at the banks offices in Lilongwe.
Speaking to reporters after making the donation , NBS Bank head of Marketing Tamanda Longwe said the bank felt the need to help after being approached by the Diaspora group and also upon realisation that, there was a lot of stigma around Covid Vaccination. Longwe highlighted that it is her bank’s wish that the message encouraging people to get vaccinated should be equally disseminated to the very rural areas as it is happening with urban areas as a lot of beliefs and conspiracy theories are putting people off getting the vaccine. The donation was received by Dr Parth Patel , Secretary General of the society for Medical Doctors who are working alongside the Diaspora Response group.
According to the Response group Co-founder and UK Chairperson Edith Chikago Parker, the group were thankful to NBS for the timely gesture highlighting that this will go a long way in helping more Malawians to get vaccinated.
“On behalf of fellow Malawi International Covid-19 Response Group members we are very delighted and honoured to have secured funding towards Malawi’s Rural District Covid-19 vaccination Acceleration programme. We are very grateful to NBS for their financial support, this initiative couldn’t be possible without their intervention. We deeply appreciate their willingness and determination to adhere to their strong Corporate Social Responsibilities”
On why the response group started this initiative , Edith Parker said as members of the Malawian diaspora, they understand the importance of supporting Malawi in critical times and Covid proved to be a critical situation .Members of the group have worked hard to volunteer time; resources; expertise, and managed to partner with the Society of Medical Doctors of Malawi(SMD) and NBS Bank to push for the safety of families in the rural districts.
“We thank the government of Malawi for granting us an opportunity to support Malawi’s Covid-19 Vaccination deployment strategies. Our message is clear, please don’t hesitate! go and get vaccinated” added Parker.
Malawi International Covid-19 Response Group (MICRG) was launched in January 2020 to support the Government of Malawi in implementing sustainable Covid-19 management strategies. It is aimed coordinating the diaspora resources including knowledge, skills and abilities in supporting sustainable Covid-19 Management strategies. The Group is working in partnership with the Society of Medical Doctors on the rural public awareness campaign which launched on 1st October 2021.The rural district civic Education Programme is a successful tried and tested pilot by SMD which was carried out in Mchinji. The project will see SMD deploying its doctors nationwide to sensitise the rural districts to increase vaccination uptake.
Explaining why the group had to focus on rural districts PR & Communications Lead Tikhala Chimpango explained that the strategy to focus on the rural population was born out of the realisation that the proliferation of the Covid-19 messaging in Malawi has largely focused on modern media.
“This had resulted in an unbalance uptake of information between the urban vs the rural creating a 2-tier society scenario,” Chimpango said. Her remarks were echoed by Society of Doctors in Malawi, chairperson Dr. Victor Mithi who explained that the project of providing CoVID-19 vaccine access to the rural communities is very critical for Malawi because of the low vaccine uptake in the rural areas yet the cases are increasing daily currently at 3% compared to 89% in the Western world.
The International response team believes The only way of preventing the disease from spreading among the rural masses is to motivate them by using peer motivators. Through this programme, they intend to create a demand of Covid-19 vaccine thereby increase the vaccine uptake and reduce the spread of the disease in rural communities. They argue that the previous emphasis on cities and towns has ended up compromising the uptake in the rural areas.
The Society of Doctors in Malawi thanked the international response team for their tireless efforts in helping Malawi during the pandemic “We are very happy that the Malawi International Covid-19 Response Group has been able to stand with us as they have demonstrated their passion for their families in Malawi. We believe that their effort shall also motivate Malawians to work together to solve their own problems. Our sponsors NBS Bank has demonstrated true ethics of the community bank for the people of Malawi which we would like other corporates to emulate in order to protect the lives of their customers” said Dr Mithi
According to recent data from Ministry of Health Malawi has 2976 active cases of Covid . the cumulative confirmed cases are 61639 with 56144 total recoveries . In terms of the vaccination data, a total of 1 054 636 doses have been administered in the county with people receiving either the AstraZeneca Vaccine or the Johnson and Johnson one .