Our Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Introduction

The Coronavirus pandemic presents a real and urgent risk to our participants, staff and programming. This is particularly true in Malawi, where some of our staff and participants are particularly vulnerable to infection as a result of having compromised immune systems. Our response is being driven at all times by the desire to reduce this risk pro-actively in the following ways:

1. Accurate information

We are leading with the facts about how the virus is spread by providing staff and participants with the correct information on transmission, and how transmission can be prevented by handwashing, sanitising shared surfaces, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or bent arm, and social distancing.

We are developing a communications strategy for ensuring that this information is disseminated as quickly and clearly as possible. This includes disseminating clear and accurate messaging on radio about Coronavirus to the Malawian public, using our methodology and strategy to support this communication in close coordination with the Malawi Government, NGO partners and stakeholders.

2. Providing resources

We have provided our office staff with the resources necessary to prevent the spread of the virus. In the UK and Malawi this has meant visible notices about handwashing, making it mandatory before entry to the office, and providing the soap and water necessary. 

3. Changing the way we work

In the UK, we have been working from home since mid-March, and in Malawi we are putting into place an Operations Continuity Plan, to ensure that everyone is aware of how to respond to the risk as it escalates.

The plan is divided into five levels, and contains actions we take at each level depending on the severity of the situation. We are now operating at Level 4 – ‘Deteriorating Security’ – in Malawi, triggered by the President announcing a national lockdown. This means that staff in Malawi are now working from home. We have also cancelled any activities in Malawi that could put participants and communities at risk – eg workshops and performances, where there is a heightened level of risk of infection.

At the current time, we are adapting our programme delivery to maintain the best level of service possible. Our curriculum team is working on ways to adapt our workshop material to self-study format. We are also re-focusing the content of our radio broadcasts to ensure clear messaging about the facts of Coronavirus, and where people can report sexual and gender-based violence, given the unfortunate likelihood that incidence of these types of violence will increase during this time. Our safeguarding team is responding to this increased risk by adapting reporting pathways, responding to urgent cases and increasing community-based and telephone support mechanisms.

4. Working in partnership

We have informed our donors about the steps we are taking to reduce the risk of infection, and are working closely with them and any implementing partners to ensure that we are learning from each other about how best we can achieve this.

We are working closely with our partner in Ghana, the Women of Dignity Alliance, to ensure that we are sharing as much learning as possible about the ways in which risk of infection can be reduced among staff, and among the vulnerable women that they work with.

We are also involving our Boards of Trustees and Directors in both Malawi and the UK, and drawing on their expertise to guide our decision making and management of the current crisis.

We are now offering online Interactive Radio Drama training to enable partner organisations to communicate remotely about Coronavirus prevention and response. Learn more about this offer here.

5. Next steps

In the immediate weeks and months, our operations will significantly change to meet the changing needs of our staff, participants and the communities we serve. What will not change, however, is the principles by which we enact these changes across our operations – the principles of equality, service, and putting the needs of vulnerable and marginalised groups first.

We are committed to maintaining a clear and open channel of communication with our partners, donors and supporters about the impact of this pandemic on our operations as it continues to evolve.

If you have any questions – or if you think you can help – please do not hesitate to get in touch. Thank you as always for your support of Theatre for a Change.