Mercy Masoo, Country Director for WaterAid Malawi, a non-govermental organisation, on Thursday last week joined what several high profile women corporate executives have already done by spending a night at a hospital in Ntchisi District to appreciate the challenges poor mothers are facing in government hospitals and recounts her experience there.
Dubbed Sleepover Challenge, this is part of Nation Publications Limited’s 2018 Mothers Day Fun Run, the newspaper’s annual Safe Motherhood initiative which seeks to curb and reduce unnecessary maternal deaths across Malawi.
This year’s main event of Mother’s Day Fun Run will be held on October 13th in Ntchisi and Masoo carried out her charity venture at Chinguluwe Health Centre in the district.
“I arrived at the Ntchisi District Health Officer (DHO’s) office at around 2pm but the health staff there wouldn’t allow me to proceed to Chinguluwe without first appreciating the entire district health system.
“My first shock was learning that the district has a nursing vacancy rate of 86%. I was curious to see how this plays out at Chinguluwe Health Centre. It’s not surprising to see that the only nurse and midwife and her auxiliary staff have a 24/7 job. Nonetheless, doing their job graciously.
“While in the meeting with the district health staff, Escom power goes off. What does this mean? It means that the hospital have to go for genset. The small genset can only power major theatre and babies nursery.
“A request comes through for the matron to authorise use of the big genset which consumes 20litres per hour. The big genset is needed in order to complete the sterilisation cycle which could not be completed because of the Escom blackout. This may seem to be an easy decision to make. Trust me, it’s not. The DHO has to manage with a monthly budget of K12 million for the district hospital and its 11 health centres. It’s a daily struggle of juggling priorities.
“The 12 facilities only have two ambulances. Those of you who know the terrain in Ntchisi very well, when an ambulance is sent out, you can even forget it for that day.
“Knowing that I work with WaterAid, that deals with improvement of water, sanitation and hygiene,
the health staff served me with a list of health care facilities requiring attention on water and sanitation. I thought the district hospital, for once, was not going to be among the list of priority.
“But there it was. So unbelievable that a hospital with over 200 in patients daily cannot have running water at some points, sometimes up to 24hrs+. In some cases they have to take their equipment to Kamuzu Centre Hospital in Lilongwe or Kasungu District Hospital for sterilisation. Now, what remains of their K12m per month budget.
“The antenatal and post natal wards are four time beyond capacity. As at 16 August, there were 98 women. All of them using one pit latrine. They can’t use the toilets inside because water is not running regularly.
“I arrived at Chinguluwe Health Centre at around 6pm and had the orientation of the place. We found nine women waiting to give birth. The room has only six beds catering for both post and antenatal patients. Another woman arrived in the middle of the night and gave birth to a baby boy. She had to be accommodated too. Thanks, there were no complications, so we didn’t have to go into the hassle of locating one of the only two district ambulances.
“The issue of insufficient medical supplies was brought to light during the baby delivery. The nurse had to conduct suturing without anaesthesia because there was none. Though the facility has a provision for a bathroom, it’s not in use. The times they have tried to use it, smell comes out, meaning there is a problem with plumbing works. In any case, water does not flow into the facility anymore. No one remembers when they last saw water flowing into the facility.
“The health centre has got what they call a guardian shelter. Not sure I would join them to call it as such. Over 18 women are squezeed in a small space. I wonder if the women who escorted the woman who came in the middle of the night managed to find any space to lie down.
“Now came the time to join the guardians to water drawing task at the borehole (mjigo) where we are told that the guardians face a lot of discrimination and ridicule because they are only visitors and haven’t paid any borehole maintenance contribution,” Masso explains.
Women corporate executives like Dora Mangulama, Temwanani Simwaka, Phyllis Manguluti, Martha Chizuma Mwangonde and Wezi Malonda have already carried out the challenge and last year the British High Commissioner to Malawi Holly Tett joined the Sleepover Challenge by spending a night at Limbe Health Centre.
Masoo targets to raise MK20 million and well-wishers can deposit their contributions to Capital City branches of National Bank (account number 1004914208, Swift code NBMAMWMW007) and Standard Bank (number 9100001290409, Swift code SBICMWMX)
Also in support of the NPL Mothers Day Fun Run is cyclist Stewart Kambewa, who intends to cycle 302kms for cause from Blantyre to Lilongwe on September 8.
Kambewa shot to fame in 2016 by cycling 1,755kms from Nsanje to Chitipa in eight days to raise funds to build boreholes in selected parts of the country and interestingly Masoo, through WaterAid mobilised other safe water NGO advocates in support of the initiative.
His ride shall start from Chileka Roundabout in Blantyre and will end at Lilongwe City Mall, a distance of 302 kilometers and has been divided in about 5 stretches;
Blantyre to Zalewa – 45km
Zalewa to Chingeni – 63km
Chingeni to Ntcheu – 36km
Ntcheu to Dedza – 70km
Dedza to Lilongwe – 88km
He appeals to donors to turn the kilometers and time covered along these five stretches into funds and is requesting both individuals and companies to choose a stretch or get all the five to sponsor.
“Any amount counts and the contributions can be sent to Airtel Money 0993 090 000 and TNM Mpamba 0883 323 232 — both are NPL mobile money accounts and the funds are going direct to NPL.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :