When Covid came to Kasina

When Covid came to Kasina

Kasina Health Centre is situated in Dedza district, one of the mountainous areas of Malawi, bordering Mozambique. It is 40kms north of the town of Dedza and an hour’s drive south of Lilongwe, the capital city. There are 74 villages in our catchment area, with a population of 35, 863.

Early in 2021, the number of cases of suspected COVID-19 were on the increase. Up to that time we had no means of testing. Then the Government identified Kasina Health Centre as a government partner, and we were recognised as a testing and treatment centre. From here we refer cases to the Government treatment centre, through the District Health Officer.

We noticed that people were growing lax with hygiene protocols in fighting the virus. As there was a considerable amount of apathy, we realised the need for more education, both on hygiene and the need for vaccination. There was little knowledge about the seriousness of Covid-19 and the need for vaccination was not pressing. We began an awareness -raising/education campaign with community leaders and home-based carers. These, in turn, would bring the message to the people. We provided handwashing points and soap to the communities. Our Health Centre staff were updated about the virus and they were active in the education campaign.

We were able to reach the 74 villages in our catchment area. We met a lot of challenges as we moved from place to place. One village was especially challenging. There they had more than 50% of a particular religion who believe that:

  1.  That if they take COVID Vaccination it will make them barren, and they will not be able to have a child of their own.
  2.  Taking the vaccination will shorten their life i.e., they believe that they will die within two years after taking the vaccine.
  3.  Their religious leaders were discouraging them from taking the vaccine.
  4.  Some of them were spreading the rumour that Covid vaccination is benefitting the politicians.

The first time we visited this village, very few people gathered in the usual meeting spot. We talked to the group that gathered. Our next move was to go around the village with a microphone. We gave input on the importance of COVID 19 Vaccination. That day only 56 people summoned the courage to take the vaccine, while others were watching and laughing at them. The next visit we intensified the health talk around the village. We met with the religious leaders and talked to them about the importance of the vaccine. After realizing that nobody died after receiving the vaccine, more people started changing their minds. They were also afraid of the government rules saying that in future, they would not be able to access medical care in government institution without vaccination.

Gradually convinced of the importance of the vaccination as a lifesaving remedy, they only started coming out gradually and voluntarily. In the end we were able to vaccinate 214 people in this village.