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Covid-19 suffocates Malawians abroad

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By Mandy Potani

Hundreds of Malawian students who are stuck in university campuses overseas and within Africa, have asked the government to assist them in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the students we have talked to, complain that since the campuses have been on lockdown, their living standards have deteriorated with their efforts of pressing on government for a bailout yielding nothing.

General Secretary for the Association of Malawians living in China Livingstone Banda said they have been writing the government on several occasions, but their letters have not been responded to.

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“The situation is dire for most students, and in the last four months, we have been writing the government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of the President and Cabinet, Ministry of Finance but none acknowledged receipt even after several reminders,” Banda complained.

He said while they want authorities to intervene in travel arrangements of students who have graduated from their universities, they also want the government to provide upkeep allowances for the continuing students whose universities have so far stopped giving them stipends.

“After a lockdown was declared in January, the government of Malawian moved in to assist our friends in Wuhan only, may be because it was the epicenter of the outbreak, but it’s is a fact that the economic downturn has affected everyone, Our plea to government is to consider giving all of the Malawian students here and even those in other countries upkeep allowances until such a time when he airspaces back home is cleared for travels,” Banda said.

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He disclosed that it has been months since the office of the Malawi Ambassodor to China called for student’s bank account details, but nothing has materialised so far.

Another student Linda Masanga, graduated with a masters in Nursing from National Taipei University of Nursing in Taiwan complained that she and other 20 colleagues are stuck in foreign land after their flights have been cancelled several times. She disclosed that flight fares have since soared hence their plea for help.

“We are private students, who are stranded; while other countries have had their students repatriated we have not heard anything form government. Most of us can Afford flights up to Ethiopia but from there to Malawi the fares are hovering around K4 million which is too high for our affordability,” she explained.

According to Masanga, visas for most of them have expired and they need about K250, 000 for a monthly renewal. Just like their counterpart in China, a majority of them have been driven out of university premises and are now struggling to pay rent in private appartments.

Our efforts to talk to Malawi’s ambassador to China, who also takes care of Taiwan Charles Namondwe proved futile but both Banda and Masanga said they have been in constant touch with him.

When contacted Minister of Foreign Affairs Eisenhower Mkaka said they have not received any official request for help form the concerned students, adding that all Covid-19 funds are with the Ministry of Health through the presidential taskforce which has been mandated to handle logistics in question.

“We are here to be told by the Ministry of Health on which people’s travel arrangements have been finalised so that we can clear flights and all. Otherwise such exigencies rest with the Ministry of Health as at now,” he said.

On his part, Secretary of Health Charles Mwansambo said the Ministry of Health response to Covid-19 is form a perspective of a disaster since the declaration in March referring us to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma). But Dodma’s spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula asked for more time to consult.

Coronavirus originated from Wuhan in China wreaking havoc across the globe, with Malawi registering about five thousand cases.

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