As efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 continue, government has allocated K1 billion to all the country’s councils for the procurement of face masks to be distributed in communities.
But while welcoming the move, the Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi (SMD) has urged compliance on wearing masks, further cautioning implementing councils against abuse of the funds so that the country efficiently fights the pandemic.
In a circular issued by Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government, signed by Sphiwe Mauwa, the face masks will be procured for 18 083 749 people and each council will be allocated funds based on the number of people and development partners under it.
Reads the statement in part: “The Ministry of Health has allocated [K1 000 000 000], one billion Malawi kwacha, for procurement of face masks to be distributed in communities. In line with decentralisation, the Ministry of Health has decided to transfer the funds to councils for effective and efficient utilisation of the resources in consideration with the urgent need of face masks in communities.
“The funds have been allocated based on the population and existing development partners in the council. The ministry would be grateful if you will adhere to all procurement processes and the guidelines attached.”
The Southern Region, with a population of 8.05 million, has received the lion’s share of K445.18 million, followed by the Central Region which has been allocated K427.24 million for its 7.72 million population.
The North, with a population of 2.3 million, has received K127.57 million of the total funding.
In the Central Region, Ntchisi district commissioner (DC) Lusizi Nhlane, whose district has been allocated K17.53 million for 317 069 people, said their Covid-19 response has been constrained due to lack of funding.
He said: “This will help the community because those who cannot buy will get them for free. It has been challenging because we rely on government and well-wishers.
“In some areas, we don’t have tailors who are trained to make face masks, so they will need support. But we want to expedite the process so that within a week, we should be able to identify those who can do the work within communities.”
His Mulanje District counterpart Stallich Mwambiwa said the initiative will help government agencies enforcing preventive measures as people will no longer have excuses that they do not have face masks.
He said: “Enforcement of measures has been problematic because some would argue that they do not have money to buy masks. This funding will ensure people have no excuse for not wearing masks.
“On border patrols, we had challenges in terms of resources but recently we have been funded on Covid-19 interventions. I can assure you that we have a team finalising a plan on the activities to be done, and we want to strengthen enforcement, including border patrols.”
On his part, Karonga DC Paul Kalilombe said they were yet to get formal communication from the ministry on the matter.
Meanwhile, SMD president Victor Mithi has commended government for the move, saying the enforcement of Covid 19 rules will be easier with supporting resources.
However, he said there is need for civic education on how people should use masks and for them to be willing to use protective gear in a proper manner.
“This is the right direction, but it will not achieve anything if people are not willing to wear masks, or unable to wear masks the right way. We also hope the K1 billion will serve the intended purpose. So, while this is a good initiative, there are these things we need to seriously think about.”
In his weekly national address on Covid-19, President Lazarus Chakwera lamented increasing incidents of new infections at funerals.
He said: “As hard as it is to change our cultural way of life in the way we approach funerals, we need to change for the sake of our survival. I have, therefore directed the Ministry of Local Government to work with councils and come up with guidelines for enforcing preventive measures at funerals.”