TALE OF ORPHANS IN THE WAKE OF COVID-19

An orphan who spoke on strict condition of anonymity underlined the need for orphanages to have better facilities for their well-being.

Covid 19 continues to wreak havoc across the world and its catastrophic consequences have affected the social, economic, and health sectors of different nations with varying degrees of damage that will take more time to repair.

In many African countries including Malawi, it is the impact of the disease and not the disease itself that has left indelible marks.

Restriction measures like lockdowns travel bans, social distancing and others aggravated the vulnerability of many poor people like orphans.

This has had a huge bearing on the lives and livelihoods of children living in orphan care homes as they mostly rely on donors and well-wishers for their daily living.

Adziwa Ministry located in Kauma on the edge of Lilongwe, the Capital City of Malawi provides a good specimen that will depict clearly the harsh realities of the pandemic on the lives of vulnerable children.

Vice Chairperson for the Ministry Mrs. Maness Chimwala believes that empowering guardians is the best way that can ensure resilience in difficult times while at the same time achieving sustainability of the support that orphans need a day in day out.

“Businesses can be a vital component in the running of this place. Donors and well-wishers will not be here forever as they also have their own priorities and problems. Therefore, I plea with organizations and people who wish us well to support us with proper training in entrepreneurship. Ultimately they should give us soft loans which we can pay back once our businesses take root. This is the most beneficial way of changing the lives of orphans and that of their caregivers”, emphasized Chimwala.

Lyson Fanuel M’bena who is also a block leader and committee member at Adziwa Ministry recounts the ordeal in the wake of Covid 19 by citing all areas that need to be addressed in order to improve the welfare of orphans whose vulnerability has been deepened by the pandemic.

“The center is facing a myriad of challenges that have negatively impacted the lives of orphans and the entire population within the center because the economy of the nation has suffered and our families have felt the pinch too”, explained M’bena.

According to M’bena, the health of orphans and indeed all inhabitants within the center have also been severely affected as there are no health facilities or medical personnel within the Centre.

He suggests that programs should be put in place by the authorities together with leadership at the center to boost the provision of health services within the center at all times.

“ The severity of impact on the health of orphans has been huge as the provisions of basic materials for containing the spread of the pandemic needed one to have a solid economic base as things like soap, sanitizers, buckets, and others were hard to come by,” he bemoaned

“Further to that the center does not have qualified medical personnel or could not afford to hire out one so as to screen all residents for signs of the virus. It would have been wise if the center had its own clinic to make sure that such situations are checked and acted upon without delays so as to prevent the vulnerable children from suffering as a result of lack of these important facilities,” he said.

An orphan who spoke on strict condition of anonymity underlined the need for orphanages to have better facilities for their well-being.

He bemoaned the lack of basic infrastructures like playgrounds, connectivity to the internet, libraries, and others.

“We have had challenges to access the internet hence our education was greatly compromised during periods when schools were closed. This left us in a very awkward position as our friends who had access to such services had an upper hand. This is very unfair as we will all sit for the same examinations. How can we perform better in such a situation?”, he queried.

Child Rights Protection consultant Amos Chibwana did not mince words but attributed everything to a lack of seriousness by different stakeholders to address challenges being faced by orphanages even before the advent of the pandemic itself.

“Covid 19 has so far affected all sectors of society and children who live in these institutions have not been spared. As a matter of background no institution planned for this pandemic as such there has been a lot of budget implications”, he lamented.

On health challenges, Chibwana revealed that lack of personal protective equipment like masks and sanitizers were a huge hurdle as funds were not readily available to cater for such preventive measures.

“Campaign messages have been selective as they mostly targeted elderly people and not children and this denied them the right to information. It is our hope that this will be considered in similar situations in the future if we are to ensure a better future for our children more so those who are vulnerable. Our children deserve first priority as provided by the ACT 2010 of the Child Care and Protection,’’ he concluded.

The orphanage is home to over 250 orphans and has facilities for nursery, primary as well as secondary education.

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