Covid-19 vaccine uptake triples among vulnerable groups in Lilongwe

Vaccination against Covid-19 has reportedly tripled among persons with disabilities (PWDs) and people living with HIV and Aids (PLHIV) under Traditional Authorities (T/As) in Chiseka and Kalolo in Lilongwe.

Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA) field officer in T/A Chiseka, Kondwani Scott, attributed the sudden rise in vaccine uptake among the vulnerable groups to a one-year project, which is targeting vulnerable groups with information, education and communication messages that can empower them to participate in the fight against the pandemic.

The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) is implementing the project with financial support from Commonwealth Foundation to the tune of K28 million.

Scott–Our biggest barrier to Covid-19 vaccine uptake was lack of awareness and outreach programmes–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

Titled “Strengthening community involvement and access to relevant COVID-19 information in Malawi”, the project is targeting 1, 200 persons with disabilities and PLHIV in two T/As in each of Lilongwe and Salima districts.

Speaking to journalists at Mitundu Community Based Organization offices at Mitundu Trading Centre in Lilongwe, Scott said the project has helped in demystifying myths and misconceptions surrounding the pandemic.

“Lack of awareness and outreach programmes targeting PWDs and PLHIV were the biggest barrier to their acceptance of the vaccine. The project CHRR is implementing has opened their eyes; hence, there is a sudden rise in demand for the vaccine among the vulnerable groups in this area,” he said.

In its 2020 survey, CHRR found 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.

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.

CHRR Project Officer Tamara Mhone Mtyavaviri said the project was initiated in response to the feedback from monitoring the Malawi COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project (P173806) conducted in Lilongwe under T/As in Chiseka and T/A Kalolo and T/As Khombedza and Kalonga in in Salima.

Mtyavaviri said she was impressed with the impact of the project.

“Through this project, CHRR has developed Covid-19 messages targeting vulnerable groups. These messages are in the form of visual aids, printed brochures and braille. And they are working very well in empowering vulnerable groups with rights information on the pandemic,” she said.

At the introduction of the project at the Lilongwe District Health Office some months ago, a Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Thokozani Liwewe, said the project 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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