So far, Malawi is one of the countries that has no confirmed case of coronavirus. However, modern media ensures that everyone is aware of the worldwide spread of the virus and Malawians have a great sense of sympathy with those who are suffering. There is also the sense of apprehension that it may only be a matter of time before the highly contagious virus is spreading in Malawi too. So there are many prayers for God’s protection.
At the same time, the experience many countries are having with the virus somehow has a familiar ring in the Malawi context. For Malawians live constantly with the risk of being infected with malaria. In most cases the symptoms are relatively mild, people will feel poorly for a few days and then gradually return to normal. Almost every day I hear of someone connected with our College community who is suffering malaria in this way. But in some cases, especially those of cerebral malaria, the illness becomes much more severe and can often be fatal. Every day people are losing their lives to malaria, with children and young people just as vulnerable as older folk.
As with coronavirus, malaria brings economic consequences for the whole society as well as suffering for individuals. The illness and premature death that it causes have a massive negative impact on economic productivity. A difference, however, is that there is no declaration of national emergency or crash of the stock market. It tends to just be accepted as a fact of life.
As we see the public health measures that are adopted to combat the coronavirus and the resources that are committed to finding a vaccine, one question from a Malawi perspective is whether something equivalent could be done to combat malaria? Of course, there have been admirable efforts on this front for many years. But as we hope and pray that ways will be found to contain and defeat the coronavirus, could we give the same level of priority to the eradication of malaria?