The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has asked government to come up with a comprehensive strategy for the Covid-19 pandemic, describing current efforts to combat the disease as inadequate.
In a statement signed by HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence and coordinator Luke Tembo, the civil society group says reports nationwide show an acute shortage of medical supplies to deal with the pandemic.
The statement singles out inadequate oxygen cylinders for uninterrupted oxygen to support patients and acute shortage of frontline workers with about eight medical workers reported to have died of Covid-19 while 700 others have either been infected or quarantined after exposure to the virus.
In the statement, HRDCsays government must release a comprehensive plan on how it is holistically responding to the crisis and immediately release funds forthe Covid-19 Emergency Fund while continuously accounting for the same.
Reads the statement: “The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 must 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.
“Government must be very clear on how the education sector should handle Covid-19 cases and ensure that schools and colleges are adequately equipped to deal with cases.”
However, HRDC says while there must be enforcement of Covid-19 rules, the police must respect citizens’ rights.
“As HRDC, we 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,” further reads the statement.
Meanwhile, amid the soaring Covid 19 cases, a citizen fundraising drive is gaining momentum with Malawians globally donating money to buy medical equipment to support the pandemic’s response.
One of the organisers, renowned writer Stanley Kenani, said in an interview on Sunday the initiative had received overwhelming support of Malawians from all walks of life.
He said within 24 hours of the launch of the initiative, over K8 million had been raised.
“We are already talking to suppliers so that by Friday we can send the supplies to the hospitals,” said Kenani.
Among those who have donated to the cause, according to Kenani, are families who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, frontline health workers, a Cabinet minister, pastors, Malawians who refused to be identified and many Malawians living in diaspora.
President Lazarus Chakwera last week declared a State of National Disaster and appealed for help amid escalating Covid-19 cases in the country.
As of Saturday, some 11700 Malawians had tested positive for Covid-19 with 300 deaths registered so far.