Govt urged to invest in health technologies

Govt tipped on One Health, GIS initiatives

Experts have urged the Malawi Government to invest more in modern technologies including Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and One Health Initiative if the government is serious about improving health standards and mitigating pandemic shocks.

This was disclosed last Friday 28th July, 2023 in Blantyre during a media science café on Covid-19 and pandemic prevention, preparedness and response which was organized by Journalists Association Against AIDS (JournAIDS) in partnership with AVAC.

In an interview after the event, Dingaan Mithi who is JournAIDS Programme Manager, said One Health initiative which is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach, is so crucial to improving health standards in Malawi.

He said the initiative promotes working together of experts at local, regional, national, and global levels with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes and recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.

Mithi added that if adopted, experts in the environmental, health and climate change sectors will come together and develop policies which will foster a multi-sectoral approach to dealing with global health and climate change emergencies.

“The biggest challenge we have seen is that Malawi don’t have One Health approach. Malawi needs a One Health strategy which recognises the linkages of climate change, environment and how these relate to infectious diseases and pandemics. What you see in Malawi is the fragmentation of policies.

“We have a wider a ray of policies to do with climate, environment and health that don’t speak to one another, but what we feel as JournAIDS, we need to have one collaborative framework which recognises the linkages of climate, health and pandemics.

“All these pandemics we are seeing right now, they originated from animals, they come from the forests, there is legal wildlife trade, all these issues need to be addressed. So these are the very big challenges Malawi is grappling with at the moment. Malawi should consider developing a strategy to do with One Health,” said Mithi.

He further indicated that most Civil Society Organisations lack knowledge in terms of One Health approach and said there is need for capacity building claiming they are crucial for the initiative.

Patrick Ken Kalonde who is a PHD researcher at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine under Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust (MLW), also encouraged authorities to invest in GIS technology in Malawi.

He said GIS technology is a computer-based tool for mapping and analysing things that exist and events that happen on Earth and said it integrates common database operations such as query and statistical analysis with the unique visualization and geographic analysis benefits offered by maps.

Ken Kalonde continued to say that GIS can help the Malawi government in mapping and doing early warning for pandemic prevention in hotspot areas and added that government should hire a GIS team.

“We need to have GIS teams in government that would be capturing and storing information about public health facilities because at the moment most health centres store their data in hard copies,” said Kalonde.

He then revealed that experts from Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust are currently formulating a visual map of all health centres in Blantyre district and the distance from one location to a public hospital.