Malawi Puts Protective Gear to Use in COVID-19 Fight
U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM) has donated personal protective equipment and related medical supplies to the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
U.S. Ambassador to Malawi Robert Scott presented nearly $30,000 worth of materials to representatives of the MDF at Kamuzu Barracks in the capital, Lilongwe.
The supplies included 2,500 N95 masks, 1,000 latex gloves, 100 sets of protective suits, face shields, goggles, surgical gowns and shoe covers.
AFRICOM’s aid is in addition to $7.5 million the U.S. government has provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Malawi since March to support the nation’s fight against COVID-19. That funding has helped increase laboratory testing, train health care providers, perform infection control and contact tracing, and educate the community, according to AFRICOM spokeswoman Heather Babb.
MDF health specialists and Soldiers taking part in quarantine operations and other security functions will use the personal protection equipment, also known as PPE. The U.S. Embassy also donated 1,500 hygiene packs for impoverished people in quarantine or isolation centers near the MDF barracks, according to MDF Capt. Wilned Chawinga.
“These items are being used in MDF military facilities in supporting members of the MDF in quarantine operations,” Chawinga told ADF.
Receiving the supplies, MDF Commander Gen. Peter Namathanga said the donation would help ease the challenges the MDF faces in reducing the risks and spread of COVID-19.
“This donation will be crucial in assisting not only the MDF front line health workers who needed PPEs, but also our Soldiers who are delivering essential services in line with the fight against the pandemic to stay safe and save lives,” Namathanga said.
Malawi reported 1,613 COVID-19 infections as of July 5, up dramatically from the 336 cases reported June 1. Cases grew rapidly as Malawians returned from South Africa after that county lifted its national lockdown, according to Voice of America. The World Bank has earmarked $37 million to help Malawi cope with COVID-19.
With a population of more than 19 million, Malawi is among Africa’s most densely populated countries. Population density has been a key factor in the person-to-person spread of the coronavirus. Age also can be an important determinant for the impact of COVID-19 on older people more susceptible to the disease. With a median age of 18.1 years, Malawi reported just 17 deaths from COVID-19 as of July 5.
The contribution to the military was one of several the U.S. has made to help Malawi deal with the pandemic. In June, the U.S. provided $50,000 in face shields, masks, hand-washing stations and other equipment to help protect poll workers during the nation’s June 23 presidential election.
Ambassador Scott praised the MDF for bringing peace and security to the country and elsewhere, including peacekeeping work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That work makes it vital to provide Soldiers with protective gear to perform their duties well, Scott said.
“Besides the fact that COVID-19 requires extensive testing and PPEs, which is expensive given Malawi’s economy, the U.S. sends a good gesture by donating at the right time,” Chawinga said.