Neno registers first COVID-19 case

By Alex Chitwere & Tiyanjane Mambucha, MANA

Neno District has registered its first case of COVID-19 since its declaration as a pandemic last March. 

Neno’s health promotion officer, Ganizani Mkwate said the patient travelled back from South Africa with other returning Malawians that were processed upon arrival on Saturday.

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“We have her in isolation centre at the community hall where she is being looked after and we are at the moment making plans to meet local leaders and business people at the market  to ensure that they should trade with caution as the area is now restricted, ” he said. 

Mkwate added that his office has plans to visit the area of Group Village Headman Feremu from where the patient comes from to engage counseling and to intensify awareness.

Malawi’s number of cases have skyrocketed with the return of nationals who were stuck in foreign land and others using uncharted routes who are not going through screening as per requirement. 

Meanwhile, Dzaleka refugee camp which was initially designed to accomodate only 10,000 refugees is now accommodating over 46,000 of them, which is said to be posing a threat to the COVID-19 fight.

Speaking at Dzaleka Health Centre on Tuesday during a donation ceremony of medical drugs and personal protective equipment (PPEs) by the organization, There is Hope, UNHCR Malawi senior protection officer, Henock Ochalla said congestion in the camp puts the refugees at high risk.

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He said  in case the camp experiences a COVID-19 case it will be difficult to prevent spread because people live in close proximity.

“When you look at the population we have here in this camp, it’s a cause for concern interms of congestion and poor sanitation available in the camp,” he said.

He said such concerns call for a thorough preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic, to make sure they don’t experience or witness an escalation of the situation.

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He said they have been following the national guidelines on preparedness and so far a reception center where they are currently hosting new arrivals is ready and isolation unit which has a capacity of 60 beds.

“This isolation unit is divided into two, one will serve cases with mild symptoms and the other unit major symptoms in case we have registered cases,” said Ochalla.  

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There is Hope’s executive officer, Innocent Magambi said his organization received a consignment of medical drugs and PPEs costing about K43 million from Canada through partners under International Association of Refugees (IFR).

“Our main work at TIH is education, but since schools are closed because of COVID-19, we thought of giving a hand in fighting this pandemic.

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“We asked our partners to help the facility with medical drugs and also protective gears. Apart from this donation, our campus has  been making and distributing face masks in the camp and surrounding communities.

“We have been doing fundraising initiatives since the outbreak of the disease, we have reached out to our donors and also partners in the camp so that we fill in the gap that UNHCR alone cannot manage,” Magambi said.

UNHCR’s health project coordinator, Gideon Kapalasa said the donation is a combination of drugs and protective equipment expected to serve over 80 percent of Dzaleka assylum seekers and the host community.

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“Shortage of drugs has been a challenge at this health facillity more especially essential drugs, so this is a timely donation, the drugs will go a long way in assisting patients.

“As for the protective gears, they are also important to our health workers, with the presence of covid-19 pandemic we know for sure that prevention is key so we do not want to face a situation where we have run out of protective gears,” said Kapalasa.

Malawi has a total of 336 confirmed Coronavirus cases, 290 active from a total of 5,148 tests conducted with 42 total recoveries and 4 deaths.

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As of June 3, confirmed COVID-19 cases from 55 African countries has reached 1,572,374 with reported deaths reaching 4,494 and recoveries 67,100.

South Africa has the most reported cases – 35,812, with deaths numbering 755. Other most-affected countries include Egypt (27,536 cases), Nigeria (10,819), Algeria (9,626), and Ghana (8,297).

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.