COVID-19 exposes that Malawians can work in solidarity to help each other in times of crises

By Duncan Mlanjira

Since Malawi was affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in April, the public has commendably joined hands in solidarity to assist the government fight the global pandemic.

This was said by director of social services at Blantyre District Health Office (DHO), Dr. Gift Kawalazira when he received the donation of personal protective equipment (PPEs) worth MK3.3 million (£3,700) which were procured by UK-based Malawian Bruno Kantiki.

Dr. Gift Kawalazira

Kantiki, who is with the British Army, raised the funds to purchase the PPEs through a charity challenge he did last month when he ran 100 miles of 10 miles a day.

The presentation was done at Kameza COVID-19 Isolation Centre in Blantyre by members of Kantinki’s family through the Gogo Kantiki Foundation — a registered charity which cares for orphans and vulnerable children in Zomba District — which Bruno founded.

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Dr. Kawalazira applauded the Kantiki Foundation, saying he was very proud to see Malawians expressing their profound love for others through their own initiative through the COVID-19 response.

“We’ve been assisted by a lot of stakeholders but this gesture has really touched us in that an individual embarked on that charity challenge as his personal response to the pandemic which we are working so hard to contain.

Dr. Kawalazira receives part of the donation

“We don’t take this gesture for granted because this donation [of N95 masks, face shields, 3-ply facemasks, examination gloves, disposable gowns and Infrared thermometers] will not just be used to treat the patients but will also protect our health workers who are at great risk of contracting the virus.

“I’ve said it many times that for our health workers to discharge their duties effectively they also need to be protected and thus we ask you, the family, to convey our deepest appreciation to Bruno and wish him God’s blessings,” Kawalazira said.

The Kantiki family after the presentation

The donation was presented by one of the Gogo Kantiki Foundation trustees, Hilda Kantiki-Khengere, a retired nurse who served for 41 years and she said she was proud of Bruno for his selfless dedication to come to the fore and assist health workers.

“Bruno sincerely expresses his heartfelt gratitude to all sponsors of his charity challenge in the United Kingdom, Malawi, South Africa and the rest of the world for their kind support,” Kantiki-Khengere said. 

Kantiki-Khengere making her speech

“He says the gruelling challenge indeed stretched his physical and psychological limits to another level but it was a fine effort for a worthy cause.

“As a retired nurse, I am so proud of my nephew and he touched my heart that he holds so dear to the efforts of the country’s health workers especially during this pandemic, which Malawi is so far lucky that it hasn’t affected us so terribly as in other countries,” she said.

In his statement, Kantiki, a former broadcast journalist with MBC and serving as a Staff Sergeant in the British Army since 2003, said the COVID-19 has left a devastating impact in its wake across the globe has made everyone to take a step in fighting this deadly virus in various ways.

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“Recognising the critical importance of our healthcare workers in fighting the pandemic, I had to do this challenge to also set an example to all Malawians that we all can do something to help in the fight against this deadly disease at this difficult time all over the world.  

“If COVID-19 gets deeper into Malawi, it will spread rapidly across the country and many people will sadly die. The health system is very weak and poorly resourced. 

“Looking at the speed and scale of how the pandemic is spreading around the world, it is just a matter of time that Malawi is overwhelmed with the spread of coronavirus.

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“I am sure that the PPEs will have a positive impact and make a huge difference in the treatment of Coronavirus patients,” he said.

Due to the current lockdown travel restrictions in UK, he was not be able to travel and present the donation in person.

Some of MUMCo members.—File picture

Kantiki, who is also vice-chairperson of Malawi UK Military Community (MUMCo) — an association of Malawians both former and serving members in the UK Armed Forces — embarked on his challenge on April 19 and finished on his birthday, April 29.

MUMCo members, inspired by what Kantiki achieved, are also currently on a similar initiative as a group to raise funds for health workers’ PPEs through a challenge to run 7,000 miles (11,265kms) in order to raise K7million (over £7,000). 

Just like Kantiki, the  MUMCo initiative has been inspired by former British Army officer, Colonel Tom Moore, who is 100 years old but has carried similar challenges that raised millions of pounds for the National Health Services Charities in UK.