I’ve haven’t so far touched upon the other projects that St John Malawi works on that I’m not part of. The two main projects running at the moment that I’ll talk about are the Primary Health Care (PHC) and Home Based Care (HBC) projects, though there have been others in the past. I’ll apologize now if I’m being brief or incomplete, I don’t work directly with the project so I can’t talk with as much confidence as I could for the Schools project for example.
Started in 1986 when St John first came to Malawi, now run by Alekeni Banda and Mrs Wega (though she’s off at the minute), there are 55 ‘dedicated and highly skilled volunteers’ (taken from The Link, the St John newsletter) working in the Ndirande and Mbayani townships on the outskirts of Blantyre. Both the PHC and HBC projects work to care for communities that can’t get to the hospitals and health centers (chipatala in Chichewa) as easily (which are generally confined to the center of the main cities and towns). Also to help the house or bed bound either directly or by helping their families to better care for them. The projects do this by running home visits, home surveys, health education and counseling. There is also an immunization and growth monitoring program for the children in these communities.
Surveys are a useful way of monitoring the communities to decide how best to help them. The surveys look at various aspects of both general lifestyle (like sanitation facilities and reported cases of disease) and in issues that are more specific to the work being done by the volunteers (the number aware of the existence of St John and those with access to the services). The last survey in 2009 it was found that malaria was by far the most reported disease with 663 reported cases and accounting for 67% (out of the sample surveyed) of deaths, followed by diarrhea, HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition and that there are a large number of household either sharing a toilet or without one entirely. It was also found that out of the sample surveyed, over 80% knew of the existence of St John Malawi and nearly 70% had access to its services.
The immunization and growth monitoring program managed to reach 23,351 babies and children in 2009 and managed to give 16,427 complete immunization to polio, tetanus (TTV vaccine), tuberculosis (BCG vaccine), measles, and diphtheria (DDT vaccine).
There were several problems raised at a recent meeting, being found as issues in the communities and also that are limiting the growth of the project. The problems facing the communities included; overcrowding, unemployment, shortage of water, poor sanitation and poor access to health services. And those for the project were; problems with the volunteers, including reduction of numbers, also financial limitations, the operation of the outreach program, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and increased numbers of orphans. Some of the solutions recommended at that meeting for overcoming these difficulties were to; increase the numbers of volunteers so to meet the demands of those communities, conducting training and refresher courses for volunteers and their supervisors, to set up strong collaborations within the communities and finally to source funding to set up water kiosks.
In addition to these two projects in the past St John Malawi has also ran HIV/AIDS project and when I first arrived was running the BASIC project, looking at malaria prevention and treatment (a major problem in Malawi, and southern Africa in general), though this has currently stopped there is a hope of restarting it if sufficient funding is found.
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