COVID-19 changes Ntcheu’s Makwangwala community’s burial ceremony practices


By Maston Kaiya, MANA

Ntcheu’s Group Village Headman Makwangwala says the advent of COVID-19 has changed some of the burial ceremony practices in the district’s Traditional Authority Makwangwala’s communities.

The local leader said cultural practices are usually hard to change, but the pandemic has forced communities to do things differently.

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“Not long ago, we would wait for as many people as possible to come to for funeral virgil before going for burial,” said he Group Village Head Makwangwala during an evaluation forum on COVID-19 preventive interventions organised by the Story Workshop.

“With the pandemic, all we wait for is the report from the graveyard informing us that the grave is ready,” he said.

He then commended the forum that Story Workshop organised with funding from GIZ, saying it has influenced behavioural change among the communities.

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“At first, the Coronavirus issue seemed to be simple as communities were taking it lightly due to inadequate information. But now things have changed considering the impact of the problem,” he said.

GVH Zaunda of T/A Ganya said due to enforcement of by-laws, there is adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures among communities from all 12 villages under his jurisdiction.

One of the participants of the sensitization project, Felix Themba Chako admitted that his lifestyle has changed due to the deadly disease and he acknowledged that he was now observing COVID-19 preventive measures unlike before.

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“I never thought of washing my hands with soap regularly as I do now. I never thought I would be going around wearing a face mask.

“Lifestyle has really changed, all this is important to protect ourselves from the pandemic,” Thembachako said.

Story Workshop implemented the COVID-19 interventions in all the nine traditional authorities and two sub traditional authorities from the district.

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Meanwhile, as of Friday, June 31, Malawi registered 97 new COVID-19 cases, 63 new recoveries and five new deaths.

A situation report from co-chairperson of Presidential Taskforce Force on COVID-19, Dr. John Phuka says three of the deaths are from Blantyre and one each from Nkhotakota and Phalombe.

Of the new cases, 87 are locally transmitted infections and 10 are imported cases that were identified at Mwanza Border during routine screening.

Dr. Phuka (left)

The locally transmitted infections include four health care workers (two from Mzimba South and one each from Mzimba North and Neno.

As of Thursday, one new cases involved a health care worker from Mzimba South as the frontline health care workers in the fight against the pandemic continue to be vulnerable. Saturday last week’s update had four of them; Sunday had five; Monday had five while Tuesday’s update had 29 new.

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Of the new 97 cases, 47 are from Blantyre, 25 from Lilongwe, three from Zomba, two from Mzimba South, and one each from Chiradzulu, Kasungu, Neno, Nkhotakota, Nsanje and Salima.

Cumulatively, the country has recorded 4,078 cases including 114 death with 3,085 being local transmissions, 993 imported cases while the total number of recovered cases is now at 1,875 bringing the total of active cases at 2,089.

The average age of the cases is still at 36 years, the youngest still being aged 1 month, the oldest still is 93 years old while men top the list at 66.6%.

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The country has so far conducted 30,267 COVID-19 tests in 39 testing sites.

Dr. Phuka says in his update that the national data indicates that the country has surpassed 4,000 confirmed cases since the first reported cases on 2nd April 2020 and local cases are three times more than imported ones.

“This calls for serious local solutions to the disease that is spreading rapidly within our country,” he said.

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“Our lives have been disrupted greatly due to this disease and this is the time for us to seriously consider reorganizing our day to day lives and make decisions that help to reduce the spread of the virus in our midst.

“We all need to treat everyone that you meet as a potential carrier of the virus and we need to strictly follow all the preventive measures wholesomely.

“Much as more and more people are recovering, I would like to remind everyone that prevention is better than cure.”

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He reminded the public for severe COVID-19 case to:

*Get screened for chronic conditions — this means getting checked if one has diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, TB and HIV;

*Ensure the chronic condition one lives with is under control — ensuring they are regularly taking medication for diabetes, hypertension, TB and HIV.

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Dr. Phuka reiterated on the preventive measures that include:

*Frequent handwashing with soap of disinfection with alcohol-based hand sanitizer;

*Respiratory hygiene such as covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing;

*Avoiding over crowded places;

*Physical distancing of at least 1 meter;

*Proper wearing of masks and avoidance of sharing of used masks;

*Regular environmental cleaning and disinfection;

*Staying at home and to contact medical personnel on 54747 if experiencing flu, cough and/or fever;

*Limiting unnecessary travel;

*Strictly adhering to self-isolation and self-quarantine protocols for those confirmed positive and exposed respectively.

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On Thursday, Dr. Phuka said currently, there is no known scientific evidence to show immunity in recovered patients and thus there is need for those that have recovered to take extra care in adhering to the preventive measures.

And he also strongly advised the public to desist from using unproven drugs as self medication for COVID-19 whether as a treatment or as prophylaxis as this could lead to serious side effects leading to drug resistance in the long run.

On the continental level, Africa has seen an increase of over 14,000 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours as of July 31, confirmed total from 55 African countries has reached 909,124.

Reported deaths have reached 19,320 and recoveries 556,639.

South Africa has the most reported cases — 482,169, with deaths numbering 7,812. Other most-affected countries include Egypt (93,757), Nigeria (42689,), Algeria (29831), and Ghana (35,142).

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The numbers are compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University using statistics from the World Health Organization and other international institutions as well national and regional public health departments.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira