LIN Newsletter: Issue 2, December 2020

The year of 2020 has been an extraordinary year in every way possible. As the world continues to face the global pandemic that has changed the way we live, work and study, it is even more apparent that we must work together to overcome the challenges ahead. We must work with global entities, local governments, civil society actors, and most importantly, all the people who are impacted by the pandemic to find solutions.

Looking forward into 2021, Luke International is committed to serving the Malawi people through: technology, innovation, research, and supporting the community to be more resilient. We also work so that no one is left behind- this includes women, children and those who have the greatest needs. In this issue of the newsletter, we share some of the work we are doing to achieve this.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Luke International

Joy: Students are happy to receive self-study handbook provided by LIN

Successful National Roll-out of “One Health Surveillance Platform” in Malawi to tackle COVID-19.

The One Health Surveillance Platform (OHSP), powered by DHIS2 technology, has been successfully rolled out to all 29 health districts in Malawi.

The national roll-out was made possible by coordination with the funding and implementing partners working in each district, and with strong support and guidance from the government. 

The surveillance system was initiated and developed by Luke International in partnership with the Public Health Institute of Malawi (PHIM), Ministry of Health (MoH) of Malawi, with funding from UNICEF since 2019. The system was further enhanced to tackle COVID-19 with support from the Kuunika Program (funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). 

The tremendous nationwide implementation was a collaborative work — with leadership from PHIM and the Digital Health Division of MoH and with partners’ contribution. Partners including ONSE/Management Science for Health (MSH), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Partners in Health (PIH) in Neno, and the Kuunika program, made the national roll-out a swift and huge success.

The project was initially designed as a post-disaster disease surveillance system targeting 14 districts prone to floods. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it was amended to cover the growing needs of the COVID-19 response –including functions for surveillance at the border, facilities and communities. The surveillance platform is integrated with the national DHIS2 database. It is also able to send and receive COVID-19 reported case’s laboratory diagnostic data from the National Laboratory Information System (LIMS) to assist with the management of COVID-19 testing and results tracking. 

The next step is to continue improving data quality and strengthening other arms of the national surveillance system, including surveillance in schools. 

For more than a decade, Luke International has been working on strengthening the health information system in Malawi. We believe that to achieve better health outcomes, we must support the health system in a holistic matter. This has become even more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic – a stronger health system makes the country better prepared to tackle the challenges of a novel disease outbreak.

(Left & Middle) OHSP system training in Mzimba South and Likoma Distirct, Malawi. (Right) COVID-19 Contact Tracing Training in Lilongwe, Malawi.

When Schools are Shutdown, Education is not.

Schools were ordered to close for five months this year, from late March to early September, in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Malawi. 

While students and teachers around the world learned to “Zoom” for distant learning, this was nearly impossible for many students in Malawi who had limited access to internet and study materials at home. 

Luke International runs a scholarship program that is currently supporting school fees for more than 100 students in primary, secondary and tertiary levels in the Mzuzu area. The coordinator for community development projects, Tina Dzama, said that the school closure announced on 23rd March 2020 have raised concerns for them as students were staying idle at home. 

LIN organized a “COVID-19 Pandemic Response Education Workshop” in August, and gathered scholarship recipients, fellow students and parents together to discuss problems they face, share experiences, and brainstorm solutions. Many common experiences emerge: students were worried and anxious that their education had been disrupted, and were asked to do more work for the household. At the end of the workshop, the students were happy to receive a self-study handbook compiled by LIN. For many of them, this would be the only learning material they have at home. 

One of the university scholarship recipients, Samuel, went a step further to offer tutoring at the community level for primary students. Samuel is in training to become a teacher, and when the school closures were announced, he started to tutor the children in his community that needed help. During the workshop, Samuel shared with other students and teachers how to support children to learn at home.

(Left) Students are happy to receive self-study handbook provided by LIN. (Right) Students share their thoughts on COVID-19 response.
(Left) Samuel, a LIN scholarship recipient, shares with workshop participants on learning methods. (Right) Students studying in the community with Samuel as the “community tutor”.
Beautiful cloth masks: Kanyika Group, a community based organization for people with disability, had a drop in their business for knitting school uniforms when schools closures were announced. They have however, found new business in sewing beautiful cloth masks!