BLANTRYE, MALAWI - In Malawi, hundreds of job seekers have been injured in stampedes at walk-in recruitment drives for the Ministry of Health. Thousands thronged interview venues across the country, violating social distancing guidelines, after the ministry said anyone who graduated from school could get an interview on the spot.
Job seeker Doreen Changamala told VOA the stampede in Blantyre started when people were scrambling to collect registration forms which everyone was required to fill out before the interviews.
Changamala says she didn’t manage to get the form and instead returned home.
Speaking via a messaging app she said, “It was almost impossible to collect a form because of the commotion as people were even fighting to get one.” She said the person distributing the forms was just throwing them, for fear of being mishandled by the crowd.
Changamala said police had to use teargas to disperse the crowd.
Stampedes took place in Blantyre, Mzuzu, Mulanje and in the capital, Lilongwe.
Officials at Mzuzu Central Hospital in northern Malawi said more than 80 people were brought in with injuries, some requiring X-rays and operations.
Many of those seeking jobs came without face masks, raising the possibility that more people will get infected with the coronavirus.
As of Tuesday, Malawi had confirmed 443 COVID-19 cases with 4 deaths.
Medical workers have faulted the health ministry for ignoring social distancing measures.
The president of the Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi, Victor Mithi, told a local station that the development is disappointing.
“Knowing that there is a higher level of unemployment in Malawi, one would then expect that calling for such an interview would act as a harboring area of COVID-19 spread,” he said.
Job interviews have continued despite calls from health rights activists to suspend them until the COVID-19 crisis is contained.