By Given Chichitike, Contributor:
It’s been just over four months since Malawi declared the first coronavirus cases which first hit the capital city Lilongwe.
To date Malawi has recorded nearly 4200 cases with over 130 deaths and more than 2000 recoveries.
Despite the increase of the cases, some communities are becoming innovative in fighting Covid-19 by reinforcing preventative measures using locally available resources.
The innovations are bringing hope that despite the increase of cases people in the villages have potential of fighting the virus given all necessary information.
Ndeule village in Tradition Authority Kazyozyo in Mchinji is one such communities which has used bottles in setting up tippy taps to promote frequent handwashing with soap.
Moving around the village one would appreciate five litre bottles fully filled with water alongside pieces of soap swinging at each household signifying the effort the community has taken in fighting Covid-19.
According to Group Village Headman (GVH) Ndeule, they are using locally available resources to prove that handwashing with soap is not expensive as some are arguing.
“We realised that with our economic status we cannot manage to buy buckets with taps and expensive soap so I facilitated dialogue with my people where we agreed that we should use plastic bottles in setting up tippy taps across my village to promote frequent handwashing with soap”, said GVH Ndeule.
Mariana Stefano, a mother, of Ndeule village says setting tippy taps around the community is helping children to easily remember messages of Covid-19 and wash hands with soap in the set tippy taps.
Stefano said, while it is easy to inculcate the messages on Covid-19 among the children, it is not easy to reinforce preventative measures since they are always up and down.
“The setting up of tippy taps at each household has helped our children to easily remember the messages and wash hands with soap. The tippy taps are child friendly because they are easy to use and even when parents are away, children are able to use them unlike buckets which have to always be monitored by someone older”, said Stefano.
Stefano says people in the area do not have excuses because the bottle costs only K100 unlike buckets with taps which costs over K3000.
“People do not have excuses, the plastic bottle is very cheap and it only takes less than 10 minutes for one to set at his household. So, to us we appreciate the initiative which our GVH is spearheading in fighting Covid-19”, added Stefano.
GVH Ndeule further said that apart from setting up handwashing facilities in the village, she has directed that all traditional dances such as Gule Wamkulu be suspended to avoid bringing people together.
She said that since messages of Covid-19 started trickling in on radio and through NGO’s and health personnel he realised that it is important to scrutinise cultural gatherings and set standards so as to maintain social distance and minimise people coming together.
“At first we were just getting the messages on Covid-19 on radio so we did not have adequate information since we couldn’t ask questions. But later Story Workshop engaged us through dialogues where they encouraged us to minimise gatherings at funerals, cultural activities, sports and other events. So following such dialogues, gule wamkulu has been suspended and during funerals we are making sure that people are washing hands using the tippy taps supported by buckets which we set in such events”, added GVH Ndeule.
Ruth Chikakula, Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) for Kazyozyo concured with GVH Ndeule saying the initiative is helping the communities to follow all preventative measures against the pandemic and are timely reporting suspects to health officials.
“The dialogues we had which were facilitated by Story Workshop in collaboration with government officials from health, education and information departments ignited the communities led by their leaders to start following preventative measures. Interestingly, the leaders are also taking a leading role in reporting suspects and monitoring those on self-quarantine in their areas which we really appreciate”, said Chikakula.
In his remarks Traditional Authority (TA) Kazyozyo said he is making sure that all the villages under his jurisdiction utilize the messages they got on Covid-19 and put necessary measures against the virus in their communities.
TA Kazyozyo says the fact that the bottle is cheap, people should be able to set tippy taps within their households, business places and in all places where people spend much of their time.
“On our part, we have a bottle of life, using very simple technology people are able to set tippy taps and promote handwashing with soap within their households. Through this initiative we are saving lives in our villages not only from Covid-19 but also from other diseases such as cholera and dysentery”, said TA Kazyozyo.
The hanging bottles filled with water alongside a piece of soap are also at each and every shop at Kazyozyo market where buyers are encouraged to wash hands before interacting with the shop owner.
According to Maurice Asibu, chairperson for Kazyozyo market, it is a rule in their market that everyone should wash hands with soap before interacting with the shop owner and always maintain the social distance.
“In partnership with traditional leaders and other authorities within our area we reached out to each and every shop owner encouraging them to set handwashing facilities using locally available bottles. Further we have directed that people should not be congesting in drinking joints rather they should be just buying the beer and drink in their homes”, said Asibu.
Commenting on the initiative Story Workshop’s projects Manager Ambele Gogwe said their organisation with funding from GIZ is implementing the project with an aim to have improved community adoption of safe practices in prevention and management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Story Workshop with funding form GIZ is covering all the TAs in Mchinji engaging with leaders and communities to adopt positive behaviors towards prevention of Covid-19. We are encouraging them to use local resources and reinforce by laws within their communities to facilitate quick adoption of the preventative measures”, said Gogwe.
Story Workshop with funding form GIZ is implementing the project in the districts of Mchinji, Mzimba, Thyolo, Mulanje, Ntcheu and Mangochi to capacitate school and community leadership structures to disseminate and promote dialogue among communities to prevent Covid-19