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Malawi: Parish plans to revive two community clinics

30 September 2016 – AJAN is helping one of its parish-based projects in central Malawi to resume its service to bring healthcare to remote communities in need.

Most of the members of Kasungu Parish are farmers who must spend time and money they can ill afford to get treatment from the nearest general hospital in town. Medication is frequently unavailable once they get there. Their plight is symptomatic of national healthcare services, which are quite inadequate to cater to all Malawians.

Key to the efforts of the parish is the revival of two clinics called St Mark and St Matthew, which will be run in partnership with the government and the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) among others.

“When Fr Paterne Mombe, the AJAN Director, came to visit Kasungu, we went around to check previous work related to HIV and AIDS in the parish. We were impressed with two intact clinics that alas were no longer operational,” said Fr Terry Mwando Mutesha SJ, recently appointed parish priest of Kasungu.

The clinics were set up by the former parish priest of Kasungu, Fr Stanko Rozman SJ, as part of a project called Patients And Orphans (PAO) that catered to people living with HIV and affected by AIDS, including orphans. After five years, the project was stopped due to funding problems that arose during the transition from the founding director of the project to his successor. What survives is a garden run by people living with HIV at a parish outstation, where they grow crops to supplement their diet and generate income.

“After assessing the situation, we realised that we needed to continue the project in a different way, so that it can serve the people of Kasungu District,” said Fr Mutesha. “There are many who need help to combat HIV and AIDS, especially to access treatment and a proper diet, which is so key.”

The support of many is necessary to get the clinics on their feet again, starting with the government, which was asked to cover staff salaries in the clinics. The request, channelled through CHAM received a positive response.

AJAN, as the network that coordinates Jesuit AIDS projects throughout Africa, is also playing a role. “AJAN, through Fr Mombe, has been very helpful in shaping this healthcare project in Kasungu and we hope to continue cooperating with them,” said Fr Mutesha.

The parish is now seeking to partner with Madisi Mission Hospital, which is about 45km away from Kasungu, to help in the initial running of the clinics. 

The revamped parish project will offer community-based healthcare, a significant focus of which will be the prevention or early diagnosis of HIV, TB, malaria and hepatitis, and subsequent treatment and care. CD4 and viral load machines, to track the progress of the HIV virus in the body, will be an essential part of the clinic facilities, as will ambulances to deliver care to the people.

Fr Mutesha has turned to donors to source funds for such facilities and for medicines, a task he received practical support from AJAN to carry out: “AJAN invited me to attend a short course in Nairobi, to help me come up with a project proposal. The course was very helpful in many aspects.” 

One of the most important topics covered in the course was self-sustainability, said Fr Mutesha, adding that the parish planned to charge minimal fees to patients to help in running costs and to make the project feasible.

 

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