Gary Brough - Malawi
Resource and Mobilisation & Communications Manager, CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, Church & Society Programme, PO Box 112; Mzuzu, Malawi.
It is good to be writing to you from Mzuzu again. When we last wrote, we were completing our self-isolation after travelling from the UK. At that time, Malawi also experienced a second wave of COVID-19 cases that was much larger than the first. Hospitals began to fill up, and oxygen supplies started to run out.
It appears that the second wave is behind us now. However, COVID-19 restrictions were minimal,mask-wearing is increasingly rare, and vaccine supplies are limited. So we
treat this more like a break in the storm.
There was further controversy around public finances when it was revealed as much as 50% of government funding made available to fight coronavirus might have been misused by officials. This is not dissimilar from the headlines in the UK about government contracts being awarded without proper scrutiny. Malawi’s President has been quick to condemn this abuse of funds and make efforts to address the issue permanently.
Vaccines have arrived as part of the global COVAX programme, but numbers are limited. However, convincing people that it is safe and necessary to receive the vaccine may prove a more significant challenge than the short supplies. Mistrust is deep-rooted for many, but fake news and sensational headlines from around the world are shared
without context and add to people’s fears.
My work is primarily desk-based for now, but it looks like we may be able to return to more community work soon. At the office, we rotate our schedules and work from home when possible to reduce congestion. The knock-on effect of COVID-19 has increased the demand for some of our work. We are returning to our research of child sexual assault
in collaboration with the police, courts and social welfare office. Sadly, with schools closed for a prolonged period and the economic impact of COVID-19, the country is seeing increased cases of early marriage, teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence.
At the same time, however, governments and agencies who champion development are focused on the more direct impact of COVID-19 and as such, funding sources are dwindling. We will have to be more creative if we are to safeguard vital services to vulnerable communities. We are piloting consultancy services to local organisations and to
outside organisations that are currently unable to travel as one means of generating funds. I’d appreciate your prayers for these efforts!
After the disappointment of yet more home learning with Mum and Dad, Eilidh and Morven were delighted to return to school and nursery. We’re grateful for their continued resilience and relatively smooth transition back into Mzuzu life. They both seem to be thriving despite the upheaval of 9 months away and are enjoying being able to
see some friends again.
Jacqueline and I have taken it in turns to attend church over the last couple of weeks. Numbers are limited by COVID restrictions, Sunday School isn’t running, and we’ve been in the pattern of joining our home church online, so we didn’t want to take up limited spaces. After a year away from Katawa, our local church, and gathered worship in
general, it was nice to be back!
We’ve been familiarisingourselves with Mzuzu life again. While a lot has changed in our time away, it’s still the familiar city we’ve come to call home. During a recent public
holiday, Eilidh and I took some time to explore the central market with its warren of shops and stalls. While we knew how to get to some of our essentials, with the help of a local friend, Frank, we were able to work out how it all fits together and where to buy the items we need.
As lockdown begins to ease and vaccines are widely available in the UK, it captures the idea of the new life of the spring season. Such a contrast to 12 months ago! While the route out might take much longer for Malawi, there is still hope. If this is our experience here on earth, how much more remarkable is the eternal hope we have
in Jesus Christ? What a stark reminder to take into our Easter celebrations.
Gary, Jacqueline, Eilidh and Morven x