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Lay Catholic Association in Malawi Engages Prison Community in COVID-19 Projects

Sant'Egidio community supporting prisoners, children, and the elderly in various projects in Malawi.

Prisoners at Mzuzu Prison in Malawi, a correctional facility located in the Northern region of the Southeastern African country, have embarked on a face mask project that will see inmates in all prisons of the region get COVID-19 protective equipment, thanks to the efforts of the lay Catholic association, Sant’Egidio, in Mzuzu Diocese.

At the end of the project, the Prison inmates will make hundreds of face masks using equipment that has been donated by members of the lay Catholic association dedicated to social service.

Marcel Ndhlovu, an executive member of the community, expressed the need to bring prisoners on board in the COVID-19 fight, saying the prisoners make up one of the marginalized communities in society.

“We thought of bringing this job to Mzuzu Prison because this is one way of supporting both the marginalized and vulnerable communities in our society. This partnership will help us provide the face masks meant to assist inmates at all prisons in the Northern Region,” Ndhlovu says in one of the community’s communiques.

Sant’Egidio Mzuzu has also reached out to the inmates at other prisons in the Diocese where a donation of face masks, liquid soap, and food items has been made.

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Mzuzu Prison Officer in charge, Zachaeus Malekano M’bawa, expressed gratitude to the lay Catholic association, saying the partnership would put to use some of the talents behind prison walls.

“We have hidden talents here which we are failing to utilize for the benefit of our communities, the little we get from such initiatives will help our facility in ensuring that our inmates are well protected from coronavirus,” M’bawa said.

The officer expressed fears that it might be possible that 50 percent of the inmates at Mzuzu Prison have contracted coronavirus going by a random sampling test that had been conducted at the prison premises.

On September 2, Malawi’s President Lazarus Macarthy Chakwera pardoned at total of 499 inmates from various prisons in the country as one way of decongesting the prisons in the wake of COVID-19.

As of September 5, Mzuzu Prison which was designed to keep 550 inmates was hosting a total of 784 prisoners of which 88 are females.

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Members of the community of Sant’Egidio, which has its secretariat in Mzuzu, a city in Northern Malawi, have conducted other projects aimed at mitigating effects of COVID-19 lockdown in the country that has been ranked as one of the poorest in the world.

Through its I Care Campaign launched in August, the leadership of the lay Catholic association has facilitated the provision of food and protective equipment to the elderly in the Diocese of Mzuzu, the feeding of vulnerable children and realized the engagement with inmates in the COVID-19 fight through the making of face masks.

“Seeing the condition of COVID-19, the Mzuzu Sant’Egidio embarked on the I Care Campaign to cushion the poor people and make sure that they were not left out. It has not been easy for a poor country like Malawi in this time of the pandemic,” the lay Catholic association leadership reports in one of its communiques.