By Jeremiah Sileti

Open letter to Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda

The negative socio-economic aftermath cannot be emphasized as everyone has seen and witnessed it. Malawi, as one of the countries whose economies are not diversified was hit hard and resuscitation of the economy remains an uphill task.

In view of the foregoing, Malawi has only one option: prevention. We need to vaccinate as many people as possible if we are to win this battle as a nation. However, Honourable Minister, it is noted with great pain that many people are not taking the COVID – 19 vaccine and the incineration of the expired vaccine last month can attest to that.  The situation is worse in rural areas where myths, cultural beliefs are inherently constitutionalized.

The reality is that a lot of people have wrong information about Astrazeneca Vaccine. The sad thing is that the ministry of health is not using the right approach to reach the people in rural areas, peri- urban and the illiterate. The use of churches was a good idea in the 1990s when patronage was good and the clergy were regarded as superhumans. With the proliferation of churches, where tithe and offerings have replaced the main objective of such gatherings, a good number of Malawians no longer trust the clergy and the church as an institution.

I’m pretty aware that the National Statistical Office (NSO) survey indicated that Malawians trust the clergy more than political leaders. However, this doesn’t defeat the notion that modernization is taking people away from religion.  The use of Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) and other health personel in civic education is another recipe for this disastrous outcome.

 In the rural areas and peri- urban, people do believe that the healthy workers are faking covid – 19 cases for their own benefit. Despite the fact that this kind of reasoning is not true, but a good number of the citizens regard it as a gospel truth. We need to devise very good civic education campaign methodology. A method that could dispel all these useless myths and illogical ideologies against the Vaccine.

I suggest the use of teachers as one of the effective method. The teachers stay with the people in the villages, they are respected and regarded as their main source of information and modernization, role models and most educated people. Teachers are also good facilitators and community mobilizers. 

The ministry of health may spend less in using this approach as teachers may not need transport only lunch and a daily facilitation allowance. The money saved through this initiative may be spent on other COVID related activities.

The use of Teachers as community mobilizers is a  panacea  to the tragedy we are facing.

Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of Maravi Post

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