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Roundwood resident leads Covid-19 fight in Africa

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Eleanor Carty of Roundwood

Eleanor Carty of Roundwood

Eleanor Carty of Roundwood

A Wicklow woman rejected an offer to evacuate from south- east Africa so she could help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in one of the world's poorest countries.

Eleanor Carty (30), from Roundwood, had the option of being evacuated from Malawi where she works with Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide - but instead she decided to stay and help with their life-saving COVID-19 prevention work.

'My hope is that by staying, I can contribute in any way that I can,' said Eleanor.

'Ever since finishing university, I have wanted to be one of those people working for Concern, to assist the extreme poor anywhere in the world to experience major improvements in their lives. For that reason alone, I was never going to leave Malawi when there was already a need for this kind of work even before coronavirus arrived here.

'This line of work is not a job, it's a vocation. It's in you and becomes part of you. The focus of humanitarian and development workers is always to help and I am here trying to do that.

'I was also very confident in my family's dedication to the guidelines and restrictions that the Irish government put in place - so I had comfort in the belief that they will hopefully be safe during the pandemic.

'Both my parents work in the medical industry. My dad, Justin, works in the medical technology sector and my mum, Sarah, works in a hospital setting - so they are both very aware of the dangers of COVID-19 and the importance of diligently adhering to the measures.'

Eleanor is an expert in humanitarian logistics and emergency management and is a European Union-funded volunteer with the charity. Like so many, she is reliant on online communication tools like WhatsApp and Zoom to stay in touch with her friends and family in Ireland - which included a special video call on May 2 when her family had hoped to witness her brother, Cormac, getting married.

'The wedding was postponed until October, but it is possible that I could still be here in Malawi, depending on the situation then,' she said.

Malawi currently has 56 confirmed cases and three deaths as of May 11, but there are fears that many more are going undetected in a country that has 20 ventilators with a population of over 17 million people.

Eleanor's role with Concern includes organising aid movement, human resources, security and information technology needs.

She and her colleagues are helping raise awareness of the virus amongst the poorest communities and how they can prevent themselves from getting it, such as by washing hands and good respiratory hygiene. They are also providing washing facilities, soap and other essential items.

'The needs here in Malawi are so great in terms of vulnerability to COVID-19 but also in terms of access to healthcare,' said Eleanor.

'People have pre-existing conditions like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and malnutrition and it is unclear at this time if these pre-existing conditions will increase a person's vulnerability, or risk and by how much.

'Living conditions are such that many individuals live in communities where households are very close together and you could have multi-generational families living in each dwelling.

'There may or may not be running water in each house. Frequently there is a stand of taps in the centre of the community where residents go with buckets to fill and bring back to their home.'

Eleanor said a donation of €50 can supply enough hand washing soap and detergent for washing clothes for a whole month for 25 families in Malawi.

'Any donation will go to good use to fight COVID-19 in these vulnerable communities and a little goes a long way,' she said.

Anyone who wants to support Concern's work or learn more about it can do so at Concern.net.

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