The Gorey Malawi Health Partnership is an Esther approved partner working with St John’s Hospital, Mzuzu, Malawi and allied institutions on system strengthening initiatives to improve the care of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). A six strong delegation from Ireland were due to visit Malawi on March 21st to work on a variety of important initiatives. This visit had the potential to substantially upscale and expand our work. It was six months in the planning. And very important to our partnership. Sadly, we had to cancel this visit. For fear we might transport COVID-19 to Malawi ourselves. Or become quarantined for 14 days on either side of the trip.
Seven weeks later our world has been turned upside down by COVID-19 and its impact on our practice and family life. Sadly, we are now watch the emerging sub-Saharan African COVID-19 epidemic and we find ourselves fearful also for its impact on our partners in Mzuzu, their institutions and their families.
It is now clear that our work together on NCDs must take a back seat. The need in Mzuzu at present is increasing resilience against COVID-19. We felt strongly that we needed to help in this area even though we did not have specific expertise. We contacted our partners in Mzuzu and spoke by WhatsApp. They were very grateful that we made contact. It helped that Ireland was already defending itself against the virus and that we too had to evolve our working practices. They were dealing with staff who were quite fearful. They needed additional guidance as to how best to prepare.
Our response strategy has a number of components, all of which have been agreed with our Malawi partners. We put together and shipped a number of items of aid which would might difficult to source in Mzuzu. This included thermometers, viral swabs and pulse oximeters. As ever, our patients and supporters in Gorey were to the fore and manufactured facemasks, aprons and face shields for inclusion.
Through our work on the Global Health subcommittee, we persuaded the Irish College of General Practitioners to release funds earmarked for global health support. This took the form of a €10,000 small grants scheme with a rapid turnaround to support a number of projects involving Irish GPs.
This subcommittee are now providing the academic content for a series of educational podcasts to increase institutional resilience and to educate healthcare workers in low resource settings as it prepares for the COVID-19 epidemic. We sought help in the form of additional editorial and logistical support from our colleagues in The Health Service Executive’s (HSE) Global Health program and in the ESTHER Ireland And finally, we are grateful to The HSE who are covering the cost of animation. The outcome of this collaboration will be a series of 14 three-minute podcasts capable of wide dissemination via Facebook and WhatsApp. We are hopeful that we can use the leverage of the multiple partners involved to promote awareness and increase dissemination widely throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Curriculum is outlined below.
If these are of use to your partnership, or an institution with which you are involved, please disseminate as you deem appropriate on our behalf.