Riders Malawi pivots to deal with the new threat of Covid-19

Since 2013, Riders for Health have been the national sample transport operator in Malawi. With the outbreak of Covid-19, it was natural that we were tasked by the Malawian government with providing all sample transport to the nation in relation to the virus. 

Our nationwide sample transport service has proven to be a powerful tool, ensuring coronavirus tests are returned quickly and providing speedy diagnosis that protects communities. 

Riders Malawi’s expertise, and the infrastructure we have built over many years to address the needs of HIV AIDs and TB mean that we have been able to pivot quickly to deal with this new threat. For example, the digital tools that we have developed with our partner CommCare mean that data on the COVID-19 samples we transport is captured and rapidly disseminated.

“We are proud that our reliable transport and diagnostic services network that connects 686 sites with labs, and the accompanying digital services we have developed have once again meant that we have been valuable core partners to the Malawian government in response to Covid-19”

Mphatso Kachule, Country Director, Riders for Health Malawi

Riders malawiBut Christopher Itimu, Monitor and Evaluation officer for Riders for Health Malawi says that the problem is not just one of getting care to people. Information and education are a huge part of curbing the spread of a pandemic.

We struggle with the fact that although many in communities are aware of the risks of Covid-19, amongst remote communities in the countryside information is still scarce and many believe that the virus is a hoax.

Christopher Itimu, Monitor and Evaluation officer, Riders for Health

Riders Malawi has responded to the current pandemic by developing a new and urgently needed services for the government and that is to provide transportation of medical waste to places where they can be responsibly and safely destroyed.

Riders was set up 30 years ago to enable health services to reach even the most remote communities using well maintained and appropriate vehicles. Now, Riders Malawi is adding a service that will transport patients to hospital when they have been referred. Another example of Riders giving yet more access to health services by deploying vehicles effectively.   

We have struggled with the additional costs and workload the pandemic brought such as additional visits to communities requiring extra staff time, and the large amounts of protective clothing such as aprons, gloves and respiratory masks needed to protect our staff.

Added to this is the costs of upgrading our sample transport kit such as cooler boxes, ice packs and temperature tracker and scaling up our digital technology to accommodate Covid-19 sample transport requests.

Riders for Health focuses on vehicle management for the delivery of healthcare and is proud to support the Government in its care of the people of Malawi and to support the incredible work of CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the PI University of Maryland in Baltimore and other healthcare  partners.

Our network of motorcycle sample transport couriers covers all the nation’s mainland districts.  But, as of early September 2020 the nation had reported 5.6 thousand  cases of Covid-19 and 175 deaths.

We desperately need more motorcycles. We also need PPE and IT infrastructure improvements to support our COVID work. We rely on existing and new partners to continue to fund us so we can fight Covid-19 and other dangerous diseases and improve the health of our nation. 

If you would like to support the communities in Malawi by working with us please get in touch.

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