When Eunice Marurungwe, a senior nurse at a rural hospital in Malawi, received a sick baby with a serious infection in her leg, she was shocked at her parents’ ability to keep her at home for a month, without getting treatment to save her life.
“It was lunchtime at the end of last year when the 14-year-old came to the clinic with her right leg in very bad condition,” she says.
The leg was unable to extend and was very bad from foot to knee. It turned green and was smelling very bad.
A twig tore through the girl’s right leg, but her parents remained at home; Not because they saw no need to rush to the hospital for treatment but because of the fears and myths surrounding them Covid-19.
“By the time they were brought to the hospital, her leg was not able to stretch, and from foot to knee, it was very bad.” Ms Marurungwe, who works at Manjuchi County Hospital, about 250 kilometers southeast of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, says It turned green and was very smelly. “
The girl was admitted after her parents were convinced that the hospital could safely treat her.
“I am happy that we helped her, but I am worried that more people are not coming to the hospital for treatment. The situation has worsened with COVID-19 as some fear testing for COVID-19, while others have been misled that they will catch COVID-19 and die in hospital.” , Says the nurse.
Limited access to health services in rural Malawi
Many people in rural Malawi fail to access health services due to lack of facilities.
In Manjuchi, where Eunice Marurongwe’s nurses are, some patients walk more than 10 kilometers to the nearest hospital. The high transportation costs of trips that take more than an hour also hold many back.
“My work is very difficult when patients come too late.” “For every 10 patients I help, three of them are in very bad condition because they are late to come to the hospital,” says Ms. Marurungwe.
Saving the lives of the rural poor during COVID-19
Last year, she took on greater responsibility for providing healthcare to COVID-19 patients at the hospital’s Emergency Treatment Center, which was established with the support of the United Nations.
WFP / Badre Bahaji
Similar centers have been set up in several rural hospitals across 28 provinces in Malawi, bringing healthcare for COVID-19 closer to the rural people who make up 80 percent of the population.
Although around 34,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Malawi and about 1,150 deaths since the start of the epidemic, Ms Marurungwe believes many lives have been saved by emergency treatment centers, as the United Nations has also provided vital supplies, including Medicines and oxygen concentrators.
About 32,000 people who have recovered from COVID-19 in Malawi have been treated at these centers.
Our emergency treatment center is a life saver. I am glad to see patients get better and go home. It makes me feel good.
“Our emergency treatment center is a life saver. I am happy to see patients get better and go home. It makes me feel good,” she says.
To bolster rural health facilities, the United Nations has also provided 1,800 health workers with COVID-19 training and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). More than 14 million people have been regularly reached with messages encouraging prevention and access to treatment for those who are not feeling well.
A network of volunteers from more than 300 community organizations – along with community radio stations, community leaders, toll-free line and mobile phone messages sent through a dedicated platform – is used to communicate with people in remote areas of Malawi about the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination.
According to the UN Resident Coordinator, Maria José Torres, the top UN official in Malawi, without support, the situation would have been terrible for the disadvantaged.
Leave no one behind
“When it comes to accessing health care, no one should be left behind,” says Ms. Torres. “Our interventions have ensured that people with disabilities, the youth, the elderly, the poor and children are able to access health care during the pandemic.
Mobile clinics and health surveillance assistants provide health services to those who live in remote areas of the country.
With the support of the United Nations and partners, Malawi’s Minister of Health, Khumbez Chibunda, said, “The Ministry of Health continues to send COVID-19 prevention and control messages to communities. Our capacity for laboratory testing and disease surveillance has been increased to test more cases across the country.”
© UNICEF / Thoko Chikondi
In addition to the health response, Malawi is also working to mitigate the social and economic impacts of the epidemic in rural areas.
With UN support, the state kept 2.6 million children educated through radio education programs when schools were closed; Maintain essential food and nutrition services for 1.1 million children to prevent and treat malnutrition; Providing cash transfers to more than 450,000 extremely poor people, and saving 720 girls from early child marriage.
COVID-19 vaccines provided by the World Health Organization (Who is the) Are supported COVAX facility It’s now also in Malawi, a development that should make Eunice Marurungwe’s job a little easier over time.
Look for updated numbers Here About the spread of the virus and the vaccination campaign in Malawi.