35% Malawians living with Non-Communicable Diseases in Malawi

At least 35 percent of Malawians suffer from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), but remain ignorant of their conditions, leading to sudden deaths because the conditions remain uncontrolled and untreated, a 2018 Lancent Commission study has established.

This revelation prompted Partners In Health (PIH), locally known as Abwenzi Pa Zaumoyo, to initiate a four-year project aimed at increasing awareness of NCDs, which started in 2019 and running until 2023 funded by World Diabetes Foundation (WDF).

The increased awareness of NCDs has led to an increase in demand for NCD’s drugs and services a situation that is crushing with the existing problem of shortage of drugs and limited number of health personals in Malawi.

Hastings Chiumia

PIH Project Manager Assana Juwayeyi Magombo said they will continue raising awareness about NCDs across the country and they hope the shift in procurement of drugs from Central Medical Stores Trust to district councils will bring about a positive change in addressing the problem of shortage of drugs in Malawi.

“We held discussions with the ministry of health and now they have given authority of purchasing drugs at district levels unlike when Central Medical Stores was procuring drugs for the whole country. At least half of the Malawi population is unaware or its diabetic and hypertensive conditions so we will continue with the work of increasing awareness at both Community and national levels.

“We have brought NCD’s services closer to the people by distribution of glucometers, which detects sugar levels and Blood Pressure machines in the hard to reach areas like Thambani in Mwanza. When NCD’s have been detected in an individual they are being referred to necessary institutions to access medications and services related to NCD’s.

“These meetings are held on quarterly intervals in order to review progress of the project, discuss challenges and possible way forward for the success of the project. Clinics congestion has also been an issue but has been sorted out by decentralization of NCD’s Care in all regions of Malawi,” Magombo.

She said Covid-19 negatively impacted implementation of the project as campaigns trainings and mass screening were impossible at some point due to restrictions of large gatherings.

During the meeting, Malawi Ministry of Health’s Assistant Director of Clinical Services Responsible for NCD’s, Hastings Chituzu Chiumia said government will be covering costs of treatment accessed at Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) hospitals in order to reduce congestion in government hospitals.

“Shortage of drugs has been a major problem but there are changes now to the policy as previously drug budgets were handled at national level but now, drug budgets will be implemented by District Commissioners (DC) with support from Director of Health Social Services.

“Ten percent of the allocation will be used to purchase other relevant drugs from else where when not available at the Central Medical Stores (CMS) and the ninety percent strictly to procure drugs at (CMS). WDF 1 was being implemented in all districts of Malawi but WDF 2 is being implemented in Karonga, Neno and Salima districts only. We want to put Diabetes type 1 to an end as it is claiming a lot of lives,” Chiumia.

World Diabetes Foundation Senior Programme Manager Responsible for programs in Malawi, Mads Loftager Mundt said they will support the right partner that is doing the actual work of fighting against NCD’s in Malawi.

“We see so many gaps, challenges as well as positives as we know it is not a short fix that after three years you pull out and everything is good. Historically, NCD’s have not received much attention as is has been the case with communicable diseases such as Malaria and Tuberculosis (TB) for good reasons of course but for the past ten years it has improved. There is a need to create more awareness through different initiatives and we will fund education programs to address the problem of limited number of health personals in Malawi,” Mundt.

The President for Diabetes Association of Malawi (DAM), Clement Mandala said people living in hard to reach remote areas face logistical challenges to travel to district hospitals hence they resort to staying at home because they are weak to travel long distances and also due to lack of money to use for transport.

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