Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Mieke Mmeya
“We are our brother’s keeper. It’s going to be up to all of us.” — Paula Deen
A lot has happened since my last blog but one thing that has eclipsed all the others is the outbreak of the coronavirus. Although there have been no confirmed cases in Malawi, the government has put in place measures to control an outbreak in the country, including closing all schools and banning public gatherings of more than 100 people. All over the world people are being encouraged to practice social distancing, self-isolation and to quarantine themselves in order to avoid catching or spreading the virus.
In the weeks before the President of Malawi declared that the country was in a state of national disaster, people in my community talked about the disease and joked about how the restrictions on human contact were going to be difficult because, for them, handshakes are the best way to greet and show love to others. The idea of isolating yourself when you or someone close to you is infected sounded strange because one unwritten rule of being in a community demands that we should be there for someone especially when they are sick, to nurture them back to health.
Through the joint effort of government, media houses, health personnel and myself, people in my community are being sensitized every day of the threat of the virus and on ways they can follow to protect themselves. Everyone who receives this message is charged with the responsibility to take the message to others who have not yet received or understood the importance of the message.
People are slowly adapting to the new habits of hygiene and interaction. Every day I meet people who start to greet me with a handshake but they stop their hands in mid-air, then apologize, and remind me that they cannot shake my hand due to the threat of coronavirus. They do not only do this with me but also with others and we laugh about it. We laugh not because we are not taking the issue seriously but because laughter is making adjusting easier. In the face of such a great threat, we use laughter to communicate our fears and express our hopes. We laugh to remind each other that we are in this together.
Before I close, my beloved reader, I would like to remind you to wash your hands with soap frequently, to practice good hygiene, to cook your meat thoroughly, to avoid unnecessary human contact, and to make sure you get information about the virus from reliable sources. Above all, rush to the hospital when you start experiencing cold and flu like symptoms. Remember that It is not coronavirus unless diagnosed by qualified medical personnel.
Until next time.