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As the world is grappling with the COVID-19 virus, the Government of Malawi is putting in place measures to contain the disease.
Following the call by Government to join hands in the fight against the pandemic, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has supported communities around Kasungu National Park in Malawi and Luambe National Park in Zambia with various items aimed at mitigating the risks of COVID-19.
This week, IFAW’s Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Landscape Project distributed masks, hand sanitizers, clinic furniture, buckets, soap and information packs to the value of about K5-million (approximately US $7,000.00) to local communities. Community extension workers received new bicycles to help them travel to distant villages and settlements.
"Everyone is at risk from the pandemic,” said Michael Labuschagne, IFAW Director of Law Enforcement Southern Africa. "We want to make sure we limit the possibility of disease by doing all we can to safeguard rangers and the communities surrounding Kasungu National Park and Luambe National Park."
Apart from the distribution of the packs IFAW, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also trained education and extension workers in COVID-19 messaging.
Brighton Kumchedwa, Director of Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in Malawi attended the distribution of the packs at Kasungu NP.
"As a department, we have been providing civic education to members of staff and communities surrounding this area, but we cannot manage on our own. Therefore, IFAW has come at the right time to distribute these items to this community and we are thankful,” said Kumchedwa.
"Rangers and members of staff at the park need protection at all times. There are times when animals like elephants enter the communities and rangers rush to help. At other times, when rangers are on patrol in the bush, they are required to arrest poachers. Consequently, the need for protective gear for our rangers is important for their safety and that of others.
"We are also glad that IFAW did not just target workers in the park only, but also communities surrounding the park,” the director explained.
Education and extension worker Mercy Milambe from Kamboni village, Traditional Authority Kawamba, was all smiles when she received her bicycle.
"We were walking long distances to meet community members. Now we will serve our communities better because of the bicycles we have received,” she says.
A representative of Senior Chief Lukwa was also present and urged communities to communicate when they suspected someone had contracted the illness.
“Everyone should be responsible. We should make sure that we are following all the preventive measures Government has announced as necessary. Everyone is susceptible to the disease, hence the need to stay safe,” she said.
Chief Lukwa also sent a message urging fellow chiefs to keep sensitizing their subjects on the importance of following all the preventive measures of COVID-19.
Labuschagne said maintaining the good relationship between the DNPW, IFAW and community members was important. “These things are coming together successfully because of the willingness of people to act together. If we keep moving forward as partners, it becomes easier to direct funding where it is most needed.”
He was optimistic that communities would continue to benefit from the relationship that exists between the concerned parties.
IFAW’s Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Landscape Project - supported by the generosity of the American people through USAID - targets Luambe National Park and Lukusuzi National Park in Zambia and Malawi’s Kasungu National Park.
Beginning in May 2017 and concluding in 2022, the project goal is to see elephant populations stabilise or increase in the targeted landscape through a decrease in poaching-related mortalities.
In partnership with government agencies in Zambia and Malawi, the project is strengthening wildlife crime enforcement in the region by supporting regional coordination among agencies and prioritizing wildlife crime across enforcement and regulatory agencies.
IFAW has brought together all relevant stakeholders in the landscape to create an enduring conservation partnership to better leverage resources and attain sustained wildlife protection with particular attention to creating community awareness and community participation in wildlife protection.