The Impact of COVID-19 in Developing Countries
Updated: Feb 21
Thomas Whitehead, Merton College
As part of my medical elective I was able to spend 4½ weeks in Malawi in early 2020, based at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre. This is one of three ‘central’ hospitals, which provide specialist services, in contrast to ‘district’ hospitals. Of note, Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with the World Bank ranking the country as the 3rd poorest based on gross national income per capita (the dollar value of the country’s income in a year divided by its population). 70.3% of the population lives on <$1.90/day. It will be important to keep this in mind when reviewing future literature about the impact of the virus on developing countries, as papers may conflate Malawi with significantly more developed countries such as Thailand.
At the time, Malawi was free from coronavirus with no reported cases although healthcare workers were very worried about its arrival. In fact, the country was one of the last in the world to announce its first case. Sadly, QECH stopped accepting patients in April because healthcare workers went on strike over insufficient PPE, following the first virus-related death on 7th April. At the end of my elective, I left behind face-masks with visors, gloves, aprons, and hand-wash which I had brought over from the UK.