Crowdfunding breathes life into Malawi's Covid fight

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Lilongwe (Malawi) (AFP)

A new crowdfunding campaign in Malawi has raised $100,000 in a week and helped provide basic equipment and medicines in state hospitals to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

An appeal launched on Facebook last week has already helped secure oxygen cylinders and essential medicines at the four main public hospitals in the poor aid-dependant southern African nation, the man spearheading the campaign said.

Malawi has recorded 17,365 coronavirus cases and 445 deaths in a population of 18.6 million.

"A friend was hospitalised for Covid-19. Then he posted an SOS call on social media asking for help as the hospital had no oxygen pressure regulators," said France-based Malawian Stanley Kenani, who oversees the project.

"Although friends put the money together and bought him one, he still lost his life.

"I wondered whether friends on social media could come together and contribute a little money for medical supplies and equipment that could save lives," said Kenani.

Malawians responded enthusiastically, from students donating their pocket money to poor Malawians in the countryside pitching in.

Blantyre resident Andrew Banda, who donated $1 said he had seen the new coronavirus affect many around him.

"A few of my friends have died and even more have been infected and this prompted me to want to do something towards fighting this pandemic," he said.

"I do not have much but I believe that the little that I have contributed will help save a life," said Banda.

Malawi was already one of the world's poorest countries when the pandemic arrived. About half of its inhabitants live below the poverty line.

Secretary for health Charles Mwansambo has hailed the crowdfunding, saying the "government alone cannot meet the health needs of Malawians, let alone Covid-19".

Unlike the rest of the continent, daily life had been unaffected in Malawi since the High Court barred the government from confining citizens to limit the spread of Covid-19, saying the poor country could not afford a lockdown as people had to venture out to earn money.

On Sunday President Lazarus Chakwera implemented Malawi's first lockdown, shutting schools and imposing a curfew as infections began to rise.

More than 50 percent of the country's total Covid-19 infections were detected this month with a record 1,316 new cases announced on Friday.