Karonga residents petition Malawi govt over stalled Health Centre project

Communities from some parts of Karonga District in the northern Malawi have taken the Malawi government to task explain the controversy surrounding a multi-million Kwacha abandoned health centre project in the district.

Namarika: Government will follow up the matter

Traditional leaders and people from Traditional Authority Kyungu in Karonga District have petitioned DPP led government, demanding answers for  the MK109 million Mpata Health Centre Project, which was unceremoniously abandoned by its contractor just a month after construction work started in 2012.

Nyasa Times understands that from the onset members of the community from around the area said they noted strange arrangements in the way the community development project was being handled and hence they do not rule out the possibility that the money allocated for the project was glossily misused.

The petition, signed by Principal Group Village Headman (PGVH) Hackson Kalambo, Councillor for Chilanga ward, Patrick Kisyombe, Area Development Committee Chairman (ADC) Smith Kalambo and Health Advisory Committee (HAC) Chairman Joseph Mwasongwe was delivered on Friday to the Principle Secretary for Health, Dr Dan Namarika.

The petition reads: “Women are forced to deliver in the presence of other women including males. As a result most women opt to deliver in their homes in pursuit of privacy and dignity. This is against the ministry of health policy that advocates for safe motherhood.”

Nonetheless, the petitioners also sent copies going to the Anti-Corruption Bureau, (ACB) the Parliamentary Committee (PAC) on health, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Karonga District Council and Member of Parliament for Karonga North West among others.

According to the petition, Mpata Health Centre since its establishment has been operating with only one structure which is used as an Out-Patient Department (OPD), a maternity wing, dispensary and admission wing against an average population of 22, 000 families.

This situation has presented significant operational challenges that have impinged on access to quality health more especially maternal health, says the petition.

Against this background, in 2011 community members around the health centre through the ADC, submitted a proposal to the district council for the construction of an OPD and a maternity waiting-shelter.

“In 2012 officials from the ministry of health headquarters in the company of Karonga DHO visited the community to announce the commencement of the construction project,” says the petition.

Subsequently, a contractor, Ziwuya Moyo, came in the area with construction materials and ground labourers which were not drawn from other districts, not from Karonga.

It is, however, claimed in the petition that the community was not involved in the work as per practice with other community development projects; everything was being handled by the contractor and his workers and this had members of the community from the area worried.

“Unlike other government-funded construction projects, there was no billboard mounted to provide information regarding the name of the project, name of the contractor, project amount, duration and source of funding and the architectural plans for the project were also not shared with the community,” further reads the petition.

The communities allege that after the construction work commenced, the contractor abandoned the project barely a month into it saying that at that material time, the OPD structure was at foundation level, and nothing had been done on the waiting shelter.

In an interview with Nyasa Times, PGVH Kalambo said: “We have made several efforts, since then, to follow up with the DHO and the Director of Planning and Development for Karonga District on the future of the project but that their efforts have yielded nothing.”

“We are here to present this petition not out of our own making but to present the concerns of the people of Mpata. There was nothing which was communicated to us but we seriously suspect that funds meant for this project were misused,” added the chief.

On his part, while receiving the petition, Ministry of Health (MoH) Principal Secretary Dan Namarika said it was encouraging that some communities are taking interest in following up on the progress of projects, which are meant to serve them.

“We know, as government, we have a responsibility to provide universal health care, but at the same time, we need also the full support of the communities to achieve our goals in ensuring that we deliver a quality and effective health delivery system,” said Namarika.

Namarika has since given the petitioners the government’s assurance that they will follow up the matter and that a necessary action will be taken in due course.

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