Worsening Covid crisis in Malawi: Joint Malawi CPG & APPG with Malawian and Scottish Ministers
The Scottish Parliament's Malawi Cross Party Group and the UK Parliament's All-Party Parliamentary Group came together for a special joint digital meeting to look specifically at the worsening Covid situation in Malawi and explore what additional support can be offered by the UK and Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament’s Malawi Cross Party Group and the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group came together on Monday the 25th of January 2021, for a special joint digital meeting to look specifically at the worsening Covid situation in Malawi and explore what additional support can be offered by the UK and Scotland. This also served as the SMP's 12th Covid-19 Coordination meeting.
An unprecedented 250 organisations, key individuals and Parliamentarians (across three Parliaments) came together for this meeting.
The full video of the meeting is available at the bottom of this webpage and HERE [If you click 'SHOW MORE' under the video on YouTube you can click the timestamp of the exact section of the meeting - or you can click the hyperlinks below].
The meeting was addressed by Hon Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, the Government of Malawi's Minister of Health, whoupdated MSPs and MPs on the latest situation in Malawi (view the Minister's presentation and download the Powerpoint).
The Scottish Government's Minister for International Development, Jenny Gilruth MSP, spoke about Scotland's work to date supporting Malawi's Covid-19 response (view the Minister's input).
We also heard from Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now, part of ‘People’s Vaccine Alliance’, about the advocacy work to try and ensure that Malawi receives timely and equitable access to Covid vaccinations (watch his presentation and download his paper on blockers to vaccine here).
We invited the UK Government's Africa Minister and the British High Commissioner to speak but no FCDO representative was available.
Wider Malawian perspectives were offered by:
- Habiba Osman, the Executive Secretary of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (watch here and download MHRC paper here);
- Dr Matthews Mtumbuka, CEO of UbuntuNet Alliance (watch here); and
- Joyce Juma-Phiri, Chair of the Assoc. of Malawians in Scotland (watch here).
Updates were shared from three (of the many) Scotland-Malawi Covid projects:
- Dr Antonia Ho, (Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow) Healthcare worker study (watch here);
- Prof Mia Crampin (Professor of Public Health at the University of Glasgow) Population Sero-surveillance Study (watch here); and
- Dr Cathy Ratcliff (CEO, EMMS) & Dr Arie Glas (Medical Director, Mulanje Mission Hospital) (watch here).
David Hope-Jones (CEO SMP and Secretary of Malawi CPG and Malawi APPG) summed up the meeting, and suggested actions across parliaments, civic society and governments to respond to what we have heard (watch here - summarised below).
The SMP is committed to:
1 Practical support as Malawi fights Covid:
1.1 We will raise awareness of Malawi’s Covid-19 priorities highlighted in the meeting, including by the Minister of Health, and encourage members support their Malawian partner communities in these areas:
(i) Increasing healthcare capacity and protecting healthcare staff;
(ii) Increasing access to, and use of, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
(iii) Increasing sustainable oxygen production;
(iv) Supporting mental health;
(v) Increasing civic information and combating misinformation.
1.2 We will look to influence the UK and Scottish governments, and other prospective funders, to increase support in these priority areas.
1.3 We will promote and support a range of Malawi Covid appeals, including those of our members.
1.4 We will specifically look at the issue of sustainable oxygen generation. Post-meeting note: If there is uptake/buy-in, we will quickly establish a Scotland-Malawi Oxygen Taskforce (SMOT) to harness the expertise across our network. The Taskforce, principally of medical and fundraising experts in Scotland and Malawi, will assess what sort of intervention would most effectively support oxygen supply in Malawi and consider where funds could be secured. [It is important to emphasise the SMP does not itself have funds, expertise or capacity itself for an operational intervention like this but we are able to facilitate discussion and support collaboration if there is drive and leadership from Members].
2 Two-way sharing of information and learning:
2.1 We will host regular (every 4-6 weeks) Scotland-Malawi Covid Coordination meetings, as we did through March-Oct 2020, to listen to Malawian priorities, share information between members, build new collaborations and mobilize the network in support of Malawi’s Covid response. These will include specific areas of focus including: PPE, mental health, civic education, etc.
3 Advocacy for timely and equitable vaccines:
3.1 We will use the all-party political and public support that exists for the Scotland-Malawi friendship to lobby the UK Government to support increased and expedited Covid vaccine access in Malawi, through:
- Noting the proposal from South Africa and India at the World Trade Organisation for a “Waiver from certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) for the prevention, containment and treatment of COVID-19”. This proposal is supported by 100 developing countries, including Malawi, and currently opposed by nine countries, including the UK. We will follow the evidence of the need for this waiver, giving support if justified.
- Support for the urgent delivery of the COVAX programme, fighting for equitable global distribution such that vaccines can be made available in Malawi in weeks, not years.
- Support for the WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), a mechanism that can help foster global sharing and collaboration of expertise
3.2 We will use our Covid Coordination Zoom meetings to share information and updates with the network about Malawi’s best route to vaccine access, mobilising members to themselves lobby for urgent action.
It was incredibly moving that every Malawian speaker on the agenda had a personal story to tell as to the human impact of Covid:
- Hon. Chiponda, Minister of Health, Gov. of Malawi, spoke of the two Cabinet Ministers and two senior officials that died of Covid with 24 hours recently.
- Habiba Osman, the Executive Secretary of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), spoke of the death four days earlier of the Chair of the MHRC, Rev. Patrick Semphere, of Covid
- Dr Matthews Mtumbuka, CEO of UbuntuNet Alliance, was just out of hospital with Covid, where he was on oxygen for 7 days. He only survived because family members were able to find oxygen elsewhere when the hospital ran out.
- Joyce Juma-Phiri, Chair, Assoc. of Malawians in Scotland, spoke of the many close friends and family members that have died of Covid in Malawi in the last ten days.
- Dr Arie Glas, Medical Director, Mulanje Mission Hospital noted that the Director of the Palliative Care Association of Malawi was not able to speak in the meeting as he was in hospital with Covid.
While the total number of Covid-19 attributed deaths in Malawi is far below that of Europe and the US, there have been almost as many Covid deaths in the first three weeks of 2021 as in all of 2020.
In a national address on the 12th December the President declared a state of national disaster and made a direct appeal to the international community, UN agencies, NGOs and the private sector. The President said: "We presently find ourselves in one of the darkest hours in our nation’s history. We have entered the eye of this pandemic's storm". Further covid restrictions were announced by the President on the 17th December.