When the Malawi Queens Europe a group of about 900 women based in Europe called to ask me to be their contact person in Malawi I was excited. I love charity work of any kind so this was no exception. Yes I wanted to be part of the engine to make a difference in Malawi. It was to be their first initiative and a graduation of sorts from being on Facebook to now being and changing people’s lives in Malawi, their home country. The group decided to put together some funds after watching a comic relief where they highlighted the plight of Malawian Children and how Malaria takes most of their lives. There was a plea for people to donate some funds to make a difference. They did and it’s the reason you are reading this article.
The initial plan was to go to Chikwawa District hospital after finding out through Malaria Project but on Tuesday afternoon 14th of April 2014 we decided on going Chileka Health Center on the outskirts of Blantyre city just past the international airport. Coincidentally, Chileka’s weather is somewhat like Chikwawa in that it is hot plus they too experience high Malaria cases. We picked Chileka due to the fact that it was easily accessible and near the city. We then used the money intended for transport to Chikwawa for purchasing more mosquito nets for the donation.
Upon arrival at Chileka Health Center we had no idea who we were to meet. After the introductions we were informed that the in-charge was not well and was absent but the ward clerk Mr. Isiah Chatayika welcomed us with open arms and answered all the questions we asked prior to making the donations.
After the questions and answers session we were informed that the health center receives donations of mosquito nets through Population Services International (PSI) Malawi via their antenatal program. In this program, every expectant mother is given a mosquito net. It then became apparent that those at great risk of getting Malaria were children over the age of five. The life span for each net is five years but when you factor in wear and tear, they may not last that long that according to some of the recipients from PSI donations. It was also expected that some of the mothers were not lucky to get them depending on whether they were present on the day of the donations.
On this day, they had their under-five clinic, scale day for the infants and their antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinic. At first we were torn on who to give the nets but a decision was made to start with the under-five then the ART clinic. We had one hundred and forty mosquito nets, one hundred of which were given to the mothers/fathers of children under five and the rest were split between the ART patients and children above five years of age.
For accountability sake we wrote down names of all recipients and each health passport was signed by the clerk ward.
What sounds like a simple event was an eye opener for me and I’m sure for my colleagues as well. We went there to donate the mosquito nets but it was clear that the health center needed more than the nets. What we brought to them was just a drop in the sea of many needs.
You see, Chileka Health Center though not a district hospital happens to be a rural hospital referral health center. It caters to Chimembe, Chikowa, Chirimba, Kadidi, Dziwe and Kavala health centers. According to the Daily Times article on the donation by Adam Phiri, their services cover forty-four villages around the center.
Aside from the maternity holding rooms, they don’t have any rooms to house other patients.
How you can make a difference
We got a chance to talk to the health center in-charge Caroline Chiponde who gave us more insight into the fight against malaria, donations and their needs at the health center. For two years, there had been no donations of mosquito nets except for the ones donated by PSI to the antenatal clinic. She was concerned that since November of 2014, there had been a shortage of medicines especially antibiotics. She thanked the Malawi Queens Europe for thinking about the people at home and most especially the people of Chileka.
Below is their wish list:
1) Holding rooms for their patients
2) Medicines especially antibiotics
3) Staff houses
4) Expansion of the health center
Overall, I was very impressed with the way Caroline and her staff handled the donation. We worked as a team and at the end of it all, we were all smiles except for the few who didn’t get the mosquito nets and kept telling us that their children would die of mosquito bites.
In a country where people live on less than a dollar a day buying a mosquito net is not a priority but putting food on the table is. One mosquito net costs MK3,200 at PSI. Question is, after the efforts by PSI to curb the infant mortality rate through their antenatal clinic mosquito net donations, what is the plan in the ministry or health care system for the children above five who are hardest hit with the disease?
That’s some food for thought as you dig deep in your pockets and hearts to spare a little something to help your fellow countrymen. Together we can! God bless the Malawi Queens Europe.