20 Apr 2017 Easter Newsletter
Grow your own
Medic Malawi does not just send money: we are trying to build a sustainable future through self help. There is no better example of this than recent work to grow maize, the staple food, for the orphanage, instead of just buying it in each year. Indeed, when there is so much in the recent news about terrible food shortages in parts of Africa, it is great to have this example of building up food supply.
The ‘Toy Trust’ and ‘Wrekin’ Orphanages, together called ‘AMAO’ (The Mother House) – were given some unused and very overgrown land last year to grow food. The ground was prepared during October and November for planting in the rains which start in December (and, with luck, go on to April). Thereafter, that’s your lot – it won’t rain again until the following December, which is why it is all so precarious.
With your help as supporters of MedicM, we were able to supply seeds and fertiliser, but all the work has been done by adults and older children from AMAO. It has been a marvellous project as these pictures show.
One thing to remember is that the adults involved will have been making a considerable personal sacrifice – they will have been working these fields at precisely the time when they really wanted to be in their own fields. Virtually all Malawians have their own Maize field to grow for their own family’s needs, and yet they were willing to at the AMOA farm at the crucial planting time.
Our thanks to Elizabeth, who runs AMAO day by day with love and limitless care. Thanks to the AMAO committee, especially Nelson and Josiah, who also keep the increasingly complicated accounts, as we now have income from the Wolves Poultry project, vegetables, and soon the farm.
You may recall the community irrigation scheme near the River Dwangwa, which I have described previously. This was very successful following really hard work and good local organisation. It produced food for several hundred families in an area in which there had been serious hunger in 2016.
The Nutrition Rehabilitation Unit (NRU) at St Andrew’s is always active because, sadly, so many of the problems which present at the hospital, especially at this time of year, can be traced to various degrees of malnutrition.
Last year at this time we offered a very extensive Emergency Feeding Programme; this year, partly because of the Dwangwa project, above, there have been fewer cases. But malnutrition lurks never far from the surface, and quickly becomes a reality. This year we will be offering food supplements to a cluster of villages and families where particular need has been shown.
I was sent a very thorough analysis of these needs, with names and explanations of the circumstances of the families concerned. I attach an example of one of the five villages as a postscript and the whole analysis is on the website. Our aim is to offer emergency food so that families are not forced to harvest the little crops they may have before the crop is really mature and ready.
The extra cost of this programme will be about £2000 next month.
Elina Mwana-Akalira is 52 years of age and a widow living with her daughter, Florence and her two grandchildren, Beauty (aged 5) and Fortune (aged 2). Elina is very sick but claims she is HIV negative. The photo shows her body structure is very thin and weak. She has asked for medication assistance.
The hospital grows too…
Writing the next sentence gives me great pleasure …
It is expected that very soon, our own resident Doctor will arrive! This will greatly increase the range of provision we can offer – more care, more hope, more lives saved.
It is a good moment to thank Peter Minjale, our Clinical Officer since the very start of St Andrew’s . Highly skilled, Peter is not going anywhere (I hope), and he has expressed his support for the arrival of a Doctor who will enable there to be medical procedures in the Theatre, for instance, which are not currently allowable. But our sincere thanks are due to Peter for carrying the main medical responsibility for so long.
Three points: first – the speed of progress. It is evidence of the hard work and dedication of our partners in Malawi. Secondly, what a pleasure it is to be able to get things done – here in Shrewsbury, I imagine we would only be in the initial stages of an outline planning application…
But most important, the arrival of the Doctor, and the building of Oliver House, show the Power of Giving to Medic Malawi. And the directness of your Giving. Two generous individual donors discussed with me the allocation of considerable gifts around Christmas – one gift was allocated to build Oliver House; the second, a monthly grant towards the salary of a Doctor.
This is the Power of Giving, with direct action and no UK costs.
Our administrator, Chris Zambira, was very quick off the mark in January when the Japanese Government offered two ambulances to Malawi. Within about five minutes they received a reply from Chris saying St Andrew’s would like them and, yes, we had the funds to pay the small shipping cost. In early March they arrived.
Wow ! One is a 4×4, both are equipped like Emergency Ward 10, and they are probably the envy of hospitals throughout Malawi. The power of giving: it was your donations which enabled me to promise the shipping costs as soon as Chris asked me about them.
And trees too!
With the help of a specific donation, we have sponsored the planting of 1000 trees in Mtunthama. Over many years, trees have been cut for fuel, which is understandable but extremely regrettable, and Malawi has lost many of its forests over the years. In the rains (again!) with damp soil the trees have been planted and will be cared for, and there has been a parallel programme of education to help to preserve them.
If it is successful, and if funds allow, we will extend the project into other specific areas where the trees can be looked after – all the time developing Mtunthama in a way the Bishop of Lilongwe once described ‘as a Beacon project for the whole country’.
“I can re-join the World”
“I was excluded from life in my blindness“said Phyllis after her eye surgery in February, at the end of ten years of blindness, “but now I can re-join the world”. She was operated upon at St Andrew’s in our monthly work, along with about 50 others.
Tikhalenawo Njovu, about 80 years old who first benefitted from cataract surgery for her left eye and now her right eye has been operated on. She is happy and grateful to St. Andrew’s hospital for assisting her at no cost
Sadly we know there are many, especially if they are blind, who cannot reach St Andrew’s. So we are sending a mobile eye clinic to Chitipa, in the north. I am told they have not had a surgeon there for two years and the need is desperate. It will be difficult, but our surgeon, Amos Nyaka, has himself made the proposal and his target is to conduct 200 surgeries in four days together with up to 1000 for non-surgical eye work. It is a fantastic project.
And the great thing, as above, is that I have been arranging this in direct contact with Amos. No middle men, no costs to offices in London or Lilongwe, no Chinese whispers about what we want to achieve. And in fact, this is based on another specific gift, and the donor is being kept up to date: direct action, every penny reaching those for whom it is intended.
Amos is also launching, with your support, an educational programme to create awareness of retinoblastoma, which afflicts children and, untreated, can lead to blindness.
Some statistics for you:
In the UK we conduct about 7500 cataracts per million of the population each year. Amos tells me that in Malawi the target is 2000 (despite the higher prevalence of cataracts), but the actual was 538 per million. It shows the importance of this work, especially as a measurable proportion of Malawi cataract surgery is conducted at St Andrew’s. Together we are indeed making a difference.
I will have more information next time, but I know that the microloan scheme, the first of its kind in Mtunthama, is proving very beneficial, and is being closely monitored to see if we should develop it further in the future. It certainly helps to develop a sustainable future for families, which is so important.
Medic Malawi Trustees
Oliver has had a lifelong commitment to Malawi as two of his great Uncles were provincial governors in the 1920s – then called Nyasaland and since his initial visit to the “Switzerland of Africa” in 1979, when he spent some time at Kasungu visiting the foundations for the Kumuzu academy. In 1994 he returned to Malawi for the country’s first ever Presidential and parliamentary election. He was elected as the Chairman of the House of Commons’ All Party Parliamentary Group for Zambia and Malawi after the 2015 General Election and in November 2016 led a UK Parliamentary delegation to the Malawi Parliament.
Andrew Fisher, a Trustee of Medic Malawi and Head of Frensham Heights, camped out in February (yes, he chose the coldest week in February), being sponsored to raise money £10,000 for educational projects. After a freezing night, and after washing with cold buckets of water, Andrew did his normal day job as Headmaster.
“I’ve tried to explain to my students that I’ve stripped away all the trappings of my normal life to replicate the challenges faced by many Malawian teachers who don’t have electric power or running water, but still go to work every day” said Andrew.
May I add that Oliver, Andrew and the other Trustees give their time and expertise without charge or expenses, and I am very grateful to them all.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you
None of this fantastic newsletter would be possible without your regular donations and the very hard work of our partners in Malawi. It is uplifting that so much is happening, and we still have plans for more.
Thank you for your giving.
Thank you for your messages of encouragement
And thank you for not just tiring of this wonderful project.