Blackouts killing Malawians—Mhen
The Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) has said electricity blackouts are killing Malawians in the country’s health facilities.
Mhen Executive Director, George Jobe, told Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) officials who received a petition from demonstrators in Lilongwe yesterday that it is sad that the dead cannot be brought back to life.
Jobe said, by the time the government, Escom and Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) officials find a lasting solution to the electricity supply challenges, the country will have lost countless lives.
He said oxygen machines in hospitals cannot function without power supply, adding that, in other cases, patients are dying between the time loadshedding is implemented and the time generators, in facilities with generators, are switched on.
“Intensive care units cannot operate without power. Women are giving birth in candle light or using light from cellular phones. Maternal and neonatal services are losing quality as electricity supply problems are affecting premature babies who seriously need electricity and oxygen,” Jobe said.
Jobe also said both planned and emergency surgeries are failing to happen as theatres are failing to operate without reliable power supply.
Mhen said even immunisation has been hit hard as vaccine storage facilities face challenges while cool bags for cooler boxes cannot be produced.
He also said the drugs that require cool places, especially in hot seasons, are losing their quality while operations such as cooking, storage of food and sterilisation of hospital equipment have been equally affected.
Jobe said when Parliament approved the budget for the health sector, there was no budget for power outages and that, due to electricity supply challenges, the budgetary allocation to the health sector has been depleted.
“Some districts are using over K2 million in a month to run generators. The budget depletion has an impact on other services provided in the health sector. We, therefore, demand that health facilities should have power 24 hours a day. There must be no blackouts in lines that connect health facilities to the national grid,” he said.
Organiser of the demonstrations, Billy Mayaya, said Malawians are tired of excuses from government officials.
Mayaya, who read out the petition without giving an ultimatum, threatened to pursue the matter through continuous civil disobedience if his calls were not acted upon.
“We are tired of being fed lies on the solution to the electricity [supply] challenges. What we need is power supply and not lies,” Mayaya.
He said the water levels in water bodies that feed the electricity generation plant should not be an excuse when other African countries including some in the region are thinking of and implementing fruitful power interconnection projects.
“Other countries are also facing water level problems but their leaders are able to think and provide electricity to their people all the time,” he said.
Mayaya said President Peter Mutharika offered himself to Malawians as a leader with solutions to their problems and he just needs to lead in the provision of solution to electricity challenges.
Acting Central Region Manager for Escom Macvittie Chiphwanya received the petition and said he will deliver the petition to responsible authorities for responses.
On the number of demonstrators, which is deemed low, Mayaya said organizers announced their intention to hold demonstrations on the problem affecting all Malawians but the participation is voluntary.
The demonstrators, who marched from Area 18 roundabout using the presidential way before turning to the Lilongwe Civic Offices, carried different placards some of them asking government, Escom and Egenco officials to resign over incompetence
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