Aid to a Place Called Balaka

Balaka District HospitalReaching the Balaka District Hospital

It was another of those interesting life experiences visiting two referral hospitals who have received medical aid from the Namikango Mission, through the Malawi Project. It was still morning when I reached Balaka District Hospital about 100 kilometers north of Namikango Mission in Thondwe. The temperature was very humid the two of us were soaked in sweat. There was no option to the intense heat.

At the beginning of my visit I met with some of the senior staff of the facility, and learned about the problems they face.

Can you imagine a villager having a toothache and needing urgent medical attention, yet the doctor has to tell you to wait until he borrows a dental chair from a nearby private hospital for you? He has no dental chair in the entire hospital.

Can you imagine walking into a hospital only to be told the hospital is running out of drugs, and no one knows when more will arrive?

Just imagine being admitted to a hospital, and being told to sleep on the floor because of a lack of both beds and mattresses.

The list goes on and on, as they list the challenges this hospital faces. The Balaka District Hospital opened in 1996, and has a capacity of 140 beds. The facility currently admits over 250 patients at a time, meaning the additional patients spend their time sleeping on the floor.

Serving Over 300,000 people
The district Hospital serves a population of 317,000 people in its catchment area who directly or indirectly seek medical attention from this hospital. The district has a total of 14 health centers (clinics), which refer the complicated cases to this district hospital. Out of the budgeted amount for procurement of drugs this financial year, the hospital only received half, hence the drug, equipment and supplies shortages, explained two of the senior members of the staff at the facility.

“When Balaka became a district, the hospital was extended to suit the status of a district hospital, but no additional equipment was provided’’, according to Mrs. Zuza, the District Nursing Officer. She highlighted the fact that hospital beds, mattresses, linen, oxygen concentrators, surgery beds and packs are critically needed at the hospital. The hospital has one aged oxygen concentrator that does not function properly.

Hospital with Only One Doctor
This hospital has 1 doctor, 87 nurses and 27 clinicians (some of whom work for the health centers). They register exceptionally high cases of malaria, with HIV/AIDS running second. Maternal related complications are third on the list of the most common cases that the hospital registers.

The needs for both preventive initiatives and continued medical supplies to help those that are suffering are a must. The government’s effort to ensure availability of necessary supplies and drugs for its people cannot keep up with the demand. The facility needs more support.

“We really appreciate the donations that we get from the Malawi Project through the Namikango Mission. They are changing people’s lives for the better. You must know that we had only one damaged dental chair before you came. Now, that we have received our own dental chair, we hope to improve our service delivery to our clients,” she concluded.

On this trip more supplies have been given to the hospital, sheets, pillows, crutches, walkers, and gowns have been provided courtesy of those who are supporting this effort. Somehow as we started back toward the mission the intense heat of the African summer did not seem to matter as much.

Wilson Tembo
Namikango Medical Distribution Site
Thondwe, Malawi