Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Tomorrow Malawi celebrates 45 years of independence. 45years since the end of the British Colonial rule and this is its motto of the day. It somehow sums up how life is lived here, with little provision and planning for the future. Yet another conflicting message for me to try and sort out within the context of the immense poverty and suffering I witness daily. It so makes sense to savour and appreciate the beauty of today. To give thanks for the meal I am about to eat, the friends I spent the day with at the side of beautiful Lake Malawi, the sunset across the African sky as I drove back to Lilongwe, for the fact that I am alive. I love and feel loved. But at a political level where is the grand plan for the future that gives hope to the poor and underprivileged? Hope to the women and babies who continue to die in childbirth due to lack of doctors and midwives to care for them. Hope to the uneducated children, the hungry, the homeless and the sick. It is obviously a mystery. The ruling party was re elected recently with a huge majority. The new budget was announced on Friday. The civil servants will receive a 15% pay rise.( ALL civil servants.) The rich continue to get richer and for the nurses, 15% of very,very, little still remains at very little! Malawi is moving on but Malawi has a long way to go.
My niece Abigail and her friend have been staying with us for the past 3 weeks. They are both medical students and were able to accompany me on labour ward a few times observing and learning basic procedures. They also took some trips out into the villages to follow up some of my babies. The triplets are doing extremely well and we are continuing to support them with the provision of formula milk powder to supplement breast feeding. They live in a particularly poor village suburb of Lilongwe just 20 minutes drive from the centre. When we arrived for the first visit we were appalled at the number of very drunk men who came out to greet us. This was not like any other village I had been to. The feeling was not good. We immediately became aware of the lack of community spirit and family support groups that are present in most villages. I will continue to visit for as long as they need our support.
Lucas left with them last Friday. He will spend a month with his daddy in Valencia. He was really excited to be seeing all the family both in UK and Spain. The house is very quiet without him. I miss his happy chatter and his cheeky face.
However it is a good time for me to be alone as the organizing and planning details for the new maternity unit are taking up a huge amount of my time. To such extent that I have left labour ward for a while and am dedicating myself to help ensure that the final ordering and delivery of the furniture and equipment is taking place. I am also involved in the orientation and adaptation of the new staff for the unit. I am leading a weekly team building session for these nurse/midwives, part of which is making visits to the new buildings to try and familiarize ourselves with the totally new environment before we move in. These are important sessions which are also about creating enthusiasm and excitement for the project and helping the staff to feel prepared for change. The new labour ward is a totally innovative concept here in Africa. Each woman will have her own individual room for labour and birth. The potential for this unit is vast as we become more woman centred. Concepts such as privacy, freedom of movement, birthing options, male involvement, presence of guardians or family members, informed choice leading to increasingly empowering women, are all new and will need to be sensitively approached and gradually implemented. I feel very fortunate to be able to be involved at this time and help to lead the way to change.
Staffing, or should I say lack of it, is still our biggest challenge. To this end we are trying to find ways of attracting more staff to the new unit. One of these ways is through the sponsorship of student midwives who would then bond themselves to work on the new unit for a period of 2 years after training. If anyone is interested in this type of support please contact me.
Yesterday I received the first delivery of equipment. 20 new beds were put into the new labour ward rooms! It was an emotional and exciting moment. I have become increasingly involved in this project during my 18months here at Bwaila but the congratulations must go to those who initiated and believed in it from its conception over 4 years ago. Their dream of providing the poorest women and babies of Lilongwe a decent, respectful place to birth will soon become reality. We who have moved in since will help them to achieve that dream.
As I drove to the hospital this morning I noticed that the large signs for Independance Day displaying the above message had been painted over to read FROM POVERTY TO PROSPERITY . Maybe someone else wondered if they were putting the right message across?