Our Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last updated 22nd February 2021

Introduction

The COVID-19 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, physical distancing, wearing face masks, sanitising shared surfaces, and going to get tested if you develop symptoms.

We are now implementing a new 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 COVID-19 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 entering the office, and providing the soap and water necessary. This has also meant providing personal protective equipment as required.

3. Changing the way we work

In the UK, we have been working from home since mid-March 2020, and in Malawi we have put 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. As of 22nd February 2021, we have de-escalated our response from Level 4 to Level 3 based on the re-opening of schools in Malawi. Under Level 3, staff are now working at the office on a rotational basis, and face-to-face activities – like Girls’ Clubs and teacher training – have resumed with proper COVID-19 preventative measures in place.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have been adapting our programme delivery to maintain the best level of service possible. In Malawi, our curriculum team has adapted our methodology to fit physical distancing requirements, and our training programmes have been adapted to self-study format.

We have also refocused the content of our radio broadcasts to ensure clear messaging about the facts of COVID-19, and where people can report sexual and gender-based violence, given the unfortunate reality that incidence of these types of violence are increasing 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. Our Leave No Girl Behind project resumed activities in September to coincide with the reopening of schools; however, these activities have now been postponed due to the escalation to Level 4. Our GIZ and Medicor projects will continue to work safely with pre-service teachers across Malawi through remote channels like WhatsApp.

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. Workshops for women in sex work have resumed following COVID-19 safety and prevention measures. The women are also receiving care packages in response to increased economic need.

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 COVID-19 prevention and response. Learn more about this offer here.

5. Next steps

Over the coming months, our operations will continue to 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.