Malawi: HRDC Slams Tonse On Covid-19 Response

18 January 2021

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC has expressed disappointment with the Tonse government's lacklustre response to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, saying the current efforts are inadequate.

In a rather scathing statement issued on Sunday afternoon, HRDC argues that although the second wave of the pandemic is an emergency that needs all hands at board, it would appear the government leadership seems to have gone on holiday at a time Malawians needed them most.

The statement, which has been signed by the coalition's chairperson, Gift Trapence, and his national coordinator, Luke Tembo, says the save our souls (SOS) calls from the health workers on the frontline are depressing with the hospitals being stretched beyond their limits.

Trapence and Tembo say Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital and Kamuzu Central Hospital, the situation is so dire with an ever-increasing death toll and incoming patient numbers.

"From information gathered from workers on the frontline:

There is an acute shortage of medical supplies to deal with the situation. One COVID-19 patient needs about three cylinders of uninterrupted oxygen every 24hrs.

There is acute shortage of medical staff to support in the front line. About 8

medical workers have already died of COVID-19 in line of their duty and cumulatively about 700 are either infected or quarantined due to exposure. In short, the number of frontline workers is going down, as COVID-19 cases are on

the rise.

These 'soldiers' of ours that are risking their lives in the frontline need to be motivated and adequately incentivised; they are giving their all to save as many lives as possible..

Trapence and Tembo further state that from the ongoing, HRDC recognises this to be a crisis of astronomical proportions and request that government directs resources towards fighting this pandemic, even if it means rerouting resources from other budget lines and/or ministries.

They have noted that the situation is so bad that the leadership vacuum vacated by those entrusted with leading the nation has been taken up by a number of patriotic

Malawians who are now mobilising resources to equip the heavily strained public hospitals.

"We take a moment to salute these sons and daughters of Malawi and everyone who has donated to this initiative and urge them on.

"Over and above, HRDC is deeply concerned and, at the same time, worried with Covid-19 developments mostly in the education sector, particularly, in the way we are handling issues involving students that have tested positive in different schools.

"As of today, hundreds of students--both in secondary and tertiary education--have tested positive yet the public is still in the dark with regards to specific measures and guidelines being pursued to meet the safety and health needs of these learners."

Further, HRDC, said it has been flooded with concerns from weary parents and guardians who have not been furnished with information with regards to condition of their wards in the affected schools.

HRDC has since called upon the Tonse government to release a comprehensive plan on how it is holistically responding to the crisis; to immediately release funds into the Covid-19 emergency fund and continuously account for the use of the funds.

The coalition has further asked the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 to immediately release a budget for critical response equipment and needs for all major hospitals and a time bound plan on how these will be provided and accounted for.

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