By Duncan Mlanjira
Government and private sector investment into healthcare has over the decades been kept to a minimal globally including Malawi as exposed by the Coronavirus pandemic.
This was said by Dr. Parth Patel, vice-chairperson of the Asian Business Community COVID-19 Taskforce on Saturday when the community handed over final COVID-19 preventive materials at Victoria Gardens in Blantyre.
Patel, a medical doctor by profession, said the Asian community sincerely hope that the initiative they have undertaken in their response to COVID-19 will awaken key players, not only nationally but also internationally, to revisit their allocation of investment into health sectors for the benefit of mankind.
“We have leveraged the extensive business and social connections within the Asian Business Community in providing adequate support towards assisting the government initiatives.
“Over the last 2 months, working hand in hand with the Blantyre District Health Office (DHO), Chancellor College and Zomba DHO, we have finally managed to set up COVID-19 treatment centers that we are now equipping as part of the unconditional support we had pledged.
“The task force also played a leading role nationally in identifying and addressing the limited knowledge about COVID19 through its media arm via publications, setting up billboards, radio messages, video adverts and social media posts.
“These messages have been aimed at providing practical, concise and accurate information to the public at large.”
Since its formation on March 26, just after President Peter Mutharika declared a State of Disaster on March 20 in view of the Coronavirus pandemic, the task force has spent over K600 million towards assisting the government’s preventive response measures.
The response included equipping the Ministry of Health isolation, quarantine and treatment center at Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) Kameza campus in Blantyre and the procurement of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPEs), whose 100 sets were supplied within 24 hours.
The task force also provided two state-of-the-art ambulances for Blantyre DHO and facilitated medications and the provision of medical personnel as well as identifying a location to be equipped with isolation, quarantine and treatment center in Zomba.
Over 50 sets of equipment were presented on Saturday that included pulse oximeters; stethoscopes; N95 masks; protective gowns; infrared thermometers; vital sign monitors; refrigerators; oxygen concentrators; oxygen tanks; beds; mattresses; hand sanitizers and many more vital medical equipment.
“We can firmly say that, without this measure, there would have been much more cases of COVID than we have today,” Patel said. “Working with the Blantyre DHO through the provision of an ambulance for mobile testing services, we have reinforced a specific data and technical team that supports the contact tracing and management of the positive patients.”
In his speech, the task force’s chairperson Faizal Aboo said they were compelled to swiftly respond to the prevention from the pandemic because the country is at a critical time where if the COVID-19 is not properly managed it can escalate.
“We are one of the last countries to have had positive COVID-19 cases and our cases three days back were around a 100 and today they have jumped to 273 in the last two days with imported cases from South Africa.
“The ABC through the BT DHO has managed to procure essential test kits that will ease the use of testing services and provide real-time, cloud-based results that will improve the geotagging of the positive cases enhancing the reporting mechanism of COVID.”
The task force is composed of 40 volunteers with an array of backgrounds, from health to finance to engineering to legal.
“These members, over the last 2 months, have given up their personal time that was meant to be invested in their work, their businesses, their families to ensure that the COVID response in Malawi is appropriate and adequate.
“This hasn’t been an easy ride all along, but, with the strong commitment and passion of each and every individual here, the milestone of such a magnitude has been achieved in the shortest time possible.”
Aboo applauded President Mutharika for recognizing the impact of their response and found it prudent to appoint one of their members into the presidential COVID-19 task force
“We will carry out the responsibility of contributing our knowledge and technical expertise with the same passion to serve our nation,” he said.