Out of a desire to protect our region from this virus, all of SFHC’s field work activities will finish by April 7. Although the Malawi government has not yet confirmed any cases of COVID-19 in the country, SFHC recognizes the severity of this situation. Malawi is one of the poorest countries on the continent, with current data estimating a total of seventeen ventilators for a population of nineteen million people. The public health system is inadequately prepared for the magnitude of the crisis to come. SFHC staff and farmer volunteers are key figures in their communities, and have a crucial role to play as coordinators of information for isolated rural regions. Our staff have been preparing by raising awareness around COVID-19, spreading medical advice on how farming families can protect themselves using hand washing, social distancing and and protective measures. For the month of March we have been using our field survey activities as a tool for spreading news into the most distant, isolated villages.
After putting all nonessential in-person work on hiatus from April 7, we will be maintaining virtual contact with farmer volunteers and staff to assess the food security status of our communities. We are relieved to have witnessed that the rains have been very good this year, making immediate food shortages unlikely.
However, we are very concerned about the long-term food security and nutrition of Malawian farmers in the aftermath of COVID-19. Public health infrastructure in the country is dangerously limited, and long-distance commutes, lack of connectivity and education make our communities especially vulnerable to this crisis. A weakened economy exacerbates current poverty and inequality. If you have the resources, please consider donating to organizations working to support East African health systems in fighting the Coronavirus, such as the internationally recognized Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
In addition to immediate medical support, the need for building long-term food security, nutrition, gender equality, sustainable lands and resilient communities has never been greater. We do not know the timeline of this virus. We hope to be able to continue our work as soon as social interactions are safe, but in the mean time we are working on innovative ways to continue supporting farmers for the long haul. Please consider supporting our work.
Stay well, friends!