CHRR unveils K28m Commonwealth Foundation-support project

Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has unveiled a one-year project targeting vulnerable groups with information, education and communication messages that can empower them to participate in the fight against the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The project is titled “Strengthening community involvement and access to relevant COVID-19 information in Malawi” and is targeting 1,200 persons with disabilities and Persons Living with HIV and Aids in Salima and Lilongwe.

Commonwealth Foundation is financing the project to the tune of K28 million. Commonwealth Foundation is the Commonwealth agency for civil society, a unique, stand-alone organisation established by, funded by, and reporting to governments.

Mtyavaviri (standing) making a presentation on the project at Lilongwe DHO on Wednesday–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

The Foundation caters for people’s participation in all aspects of public dialogue, to act together and learn from each other to build democratic societies. Ultimately, the Foundation seeks to ensure that policy and government institutions are more effective contributors to development through the influence of civic voices.

Speaking at the presentation of the project to the Lilongwe District Health Office (DHO) on Wednesday afternoon, CHRR Project Officer Tamara Mhone Mtyavaviri said the project in response to the feedback from monitoring the Malawi COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project (P173806) conducted in Lilongwe under Traditional Authorities (T/As) in Chiseka and T/A Kalolo and T/As Khombedza and Kalonga in in Salima.

The survey was conducted in 2020.

“The research findings established that there was inadequate expertise at community level to rely Covid-19 messages to persons living with disabilities, particularly those with hearing impairment and people who are blind. For persons with physical disabilities, it is difficult to practice personal hygiene, due to lack of access to wheelchairs,” said Mtyavaviri.

She added that the study also noted lack of support to the elderly and persons living with HIV and Aids with personal protective equipment and essential nutritional support, lack of a feedback mechanism platform and awareness amongst community members on such a platform were community members can lodge their complaints and lack of means of transportation for community committees to rely Covid-19 messages in hard to reach areas.

She therefore recommended that communities must be oriented on citizen engagement to enhance their participation in project preparation and implementation.

“There is a need for more efforts towards relying Covid-19 messages to Persons with disabilities through visual aids, braille and utilizing sign language experts to rely these messages. There is need to institute a functional feedback mechanism that is inclusive and easily understood by community members. Further, there is need to strengthen project components that work to mitigate discrimination towards Covid-19 patients and provide counselling for Covid-19 patients to not feel neglected,” Mtyavaviri narrated.

Senior Medical Officer at Lilongwe DHO, Dr. Thokozani Liwewe, welcomed the project, saying it will go a long way in addressing information gaps around the pandemic.

“It’s a welcome project and I believe that it’s going to be a success. It’s sad that until now, there are so many myths and misconceptions around Covid-19, and with this initiative, we believe we should be able to address such problems,” said Liwewe.

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