Irving Hoffman, international director of the Institute’s UNC Project-Malawi, offers this report as the country recorded its first death from COVID-19.
As of April 8, 2020, despite limited testing, Malawi has recorded 10 COVID-19 cases with one death and some evidence of community spread. UNC Project-Malawi is taking a leading role in support of the Malawi Ministry of Health and Kamuzu Central Hospital’s effort to develop COVID-19 systems for screening, testing, care for patients and research participants in our challenging environment of resource and infrastructure limitations.
Providing PPE and training clinical and research staff members in its use is our first priority. The shipment of goods into the country has been dramatically limited by the overall reduction of flights into this landlocked country. We don’t currently have the capacity to detect COVID-19, but we are moving ahead with several platforms and we anticipate to have this capacity by May. This will supplement the Ministry of Health’s limited testing capacity in Lilongwe and provide opportunities for vital COVID-19 research that will directly improve the standard of care.
UNC faculty and staff leading this effort include Innocent Mofolo and Debbie Kamwendo our country and associate country directors. Doctors Mina Hosseinipour, Kate Westmoreland, Lameck Chinula, Tisu Mvalo and Cecelia Kanyama provide clinical support, consultation, recommendations and standard operating procedures. Lab co-directors Rob Krysiak and Gerald Tegha are coordinating the COVID screening and testing service and advise on the supply chain; Agatha Bula in nursing is coordinating the staff training and use of PPE.
Thanks to Jon Juliano, Michael Herce and Diana Stanley in Chapel Hill — they have been instrumental in supporting our frontline team in Malawi. And thank you to Weiming Tang, assistant director of UNC Project-China, who has procured and shipped low-cost PPE from China to Malawi. it’s truly a global effort.