AMECA – one of our chosen charities

One of the Charities we support at Headley is AMECA.

Founded in 2007 in memory of a British Army doctor, AMECA has worked from home in the UK and in Malawi for 16 years with no paid staff,  and has delivered an impressive portfolio of sustainable healthcare initiatives In Malawi. All projects having been delivered on time and on, or even under budget.

In addition to continuing our support for the Health Centre and Maternity unit, constructed for the Blantyre District Health Office,  AMECA is currently focussed on addressing the paucity of qualified doctors in Malawi and we are very enthusiastic about our scholarships which support impoverished students at The College of Medicine in Blantyre. They are hoping to facilitate the purchase of a property for the College for use as a Medical Student Hostel.

We’ve shared their latest newsletter below so you can find out more about the important work they do.

🎄🎄🎄🎄   CHRISTMAS 2023   🎄🎄🎄🎄

As we approach Christmas, I can’t help but reflect on what has been a very challenging year in Malawi. In March, the country experienced a devastating cyclone, the effects of which are sadly still being felt with food insecurity and the coming rainy season. A series of devaluations of the Kwacha contributed to steep price rises, making so much unaffordable to so many.I believe though, that we should also reflect on the small differences AMECA continues to make, in spite of the challenges, due to you all and to your ongoing generosity of spirit.

From AMECA’s Directors in the UK and in Malawi, we thank you for your enduring support and wish you a very Happy Christmas and all good wishes for 2024.

Ruthie Markus, CEO

🎄🎄🎄🎄

SPONSORSHIP NEWS

 

During 2023, AMECA greatly increased the number of scholarships being awarded to medical and other healthcare students, a list of which can be viewed at this link.  We are also proud to have the support of The Canadian Medical Foundation this year, who currently sponsor 4 students at KUHeS, (College of Medicine). The students are a joy to know; their gratitude is palpable and we watch their progress through their studies with profound interest.
We believe that education should be a right and not a privilege.
A very warm welcome to Bernard who was awarded a scholarship to study for his 5-year Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, (MBBS) at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences, (College of Medicine). We are so very grateful to my close UK friends who are so generously supporting this scholarship in memory of their son, who so sadly died earlier this year.
After struggling to pay his academic fees, Bernard’s plight was brought to our attention by Joyce Gondwe, Dean of Students at KUHeS and it was very heart warming to be able to assist this bright and motivated student. Bernard quotes, “I would like to thank you for the support given to me in terms of tuition fee of my studies, monthly upkeep and the modern laptop. This has come at right time when I was almost giving up on my studies due to challenges related to lack of support you have just given me. I will be grateful for your continued support and I promise to work hard.”
Heartfelt congratulations to our students who have completed their Diploma in Clinical Medicine at the College of Health Sciences. Pictured above at their graduation ceremony in Lilongwe on the 3rd November are Kondwani, Thoko and Patricia. Our thoughts and congratulations also to Chrissie, who sadly could not make the ceremony due to illness. We wish you all every success in your careers as Clinical Officers and look forward to following your progress.
Pictured above are the College of Medicine students on their end of semester Christmas outing. From the left are Rhoda, Foundation year MBBS, (Bachelor Medicine, Bachelor Surgery), Bernard, 1st year MBBS, Agnes, Pharmacy, James, Palliative Care, Fili, 4th year MBBS, Abraham, Internal Medicine, Fortune, Internal Medicine and Levishon, Internal medicine. We really missed Genti and James, our MBBS students who are in Lilongwe for the year and could not make it. A rare treat and a much-needed few hours off from their studies, as well as a chance to meet up and discuss the year.

As mentioned in our previous newsletter, subject to raising sufficient funding, AMECA intends to enable the purchase of a suitable property for use as an accommodation hostel for medical students. We are very excited to have been nominated by the Captain and the Lady Captain as the charity of the Year at St George’s Hill Golf Club in Surrey and hope that the members’ kind future donations will help to realise this initiative.

OUTPATIENTS DEPARTMENT

The original Outpatients, (OPD), building was constructed in 2017 and serves a population of some 38,000 people in the surrounding catchment villages, who had no prior access to local healthcare. After 6 years, the clinic is still looking as good as new and patient services have expanded to include Outpatient consultations, HIV clinics, Under 5’s clinics, ART clinics, (antiretroviral therapy) and Sexually Transmitted Infections clinics.

 

 

Pictured above is Medical Assistant, Dorothy, in consultation with a patient

The day begins with a health talk from members of the OPD staff, to waiting patients. The health topics covered include talks on Cholera prevention, sanitation, Malaria prevention, nutrition etc. In spite of staff shortages, together with nationwide shortages of many antibiotics and drugs, feedback from the community remains very positive, with comments about the helpfulness and friendliness of the staff and the beautiful environment of the health centre.

 

 

As seen from the data above, outpatient consultations have increased sharply from 2022.
Above, Sumani is giving young Chancy a rapid Malaria test in the lab.
Pictured above right is Elsie Nazombe, together with Webster and Nellie. Elsie is a senior Health Surveillance Assistant, (HSA), in charge of the team of 11 HSA’s at the health centre. The HSA’s provide an important link between the health centre and the community, running the Under 5’s clinic as well as a number of community health clinics, giving advice on safe water, sanitation, growth monitoring etc. The HSA’s also undertake 4 outreach clinics for some of the very remote villages, treating minor injuries, infections, Malaria, etc.
Yes, this is maternity, not Outpatients, but here are our newest babies, Miracle and Righteous, with their Mums Charity and Modesta, who are about to be discharged. Modesta and Charity enthused about the friendliness of the staff and the cleanliness of the facility and felt they had been looked after with care and respect. Midwife Mabel, (left) and Matron Priscilla were delighted to hear the comments.

 

As we reported some time ago, the main access bridge to the Health Centre was completely washed away by floods last February, just before the cyclone. Pictured above left is Mr Mussa, Chair of the Health & Environmental Committee at Blantyre District Council, together with The Director for Health & Social Services, Dr Kawalazira and Christina from the DHO Maintenance team, who came out to view our concerns about the situation. Although there is currently access to the village via another bridge, the coming rainy season will bring serious challenges as the approach to this bridge will become very dangerous and slippery for all vehicles, including ambulances. We sincerely hope that some remedial measures can be taken in the near future to provide a safer access.

 

PHYSIOTHERAPY CLINIC

The Physiotherapy Clinic continues to be very busy and it is encouraging to see the progress being made by our regular patients. Cerebral Palsy represents the most frequent paediatric condition, whilst adult patients mainly present with stroke or arthritis.
Patient attendance has increased sharply during the year, but during November, we only held 3 clinics, due to staff illness. Heavy rains also prevented some patients from accessing the clinic during the final week of November.
Pictured above are Alipo, (left) and Leticia, both of whom suffer from Cerebral Palsy, both regular attendees at the clinic since we opened in January. They have forged quite a friendship, to say the least!! Their progress, as a result of very regular physiotherapy each week, has been really encouraging and AMECA was able to purchase both children standing fames and adaptive chairs. Leticia was referred to the Orthopaedic Centre at Queens and received orthotics to strengthen her legs. She has just received her new walking frame, which we purchased from the Orthopaedic Centre. Alipo has progressed to being able to stand, and his ankles are more flexible. He can now sit up whilst supporting himself and has been measured for a standing frame. Looking back to January where we began, this is great progress for both of these young patients.
Unlike the UK, where patient transport services are available and equipment can be provided at hospitals, things are a bit more challenging here!!. We try to save on costs by using a local carpenter for some items. As seen above, we met with Gibson, our carpenter in the street near his home in Blantyre, to provide him with sketches and measurements for standing frames and adaptive chairs.
A few days later, I pick up all the equipment from Gibson near his workshop, accompanied by some of Gibson’s enthusiastic little relatives!
So, how do we help to get these mothers and the children like Alipo, seen here with his new standing frame, back to their remote village homes, bearing in mind that patients certainly do not have cars, nor is there any public transport or patient transport services?
As with most things over here, some improvisation and creativity is required to help them.

I dare say that the fans of health & safety in the UK may get a little excited, but this is the reality and I am happy to say that Alipo, his mother and the equipment were all safely delivered home. The local motorbike taxis do, in fact, provide the only means of transport for most patients.

And finally, our deepest gratitude to my local church in Epsom, Surrey, St Martins of Tours, for their fantastically generous donation in support of the Physio clinic and of disability needs. Many thanks also, to all those who so kindly made donations following the previous newsletter. Amongst the recipients already mentioned, such as Alipo and Leticia, are:

Justin, seen above with his new crutch, which we purchased from MAP, (Malawi Against Physical Disabilities). Justin had suffered a stroke and was trying to walk around with a broken old crutch. Justin is doing well with regular weekly physio and is delighted to have a decent new walking aid.
Little Modesta, seen above with her new standing frame, made by carpenter Gibson. Modesta, aged 2, suffers from Cerebral Palsy, more than likely as a result of birth asphyxia.

Modesta above in her new Adaptive Chair. As we have explained, having an Adaptive Chair makes all the difference to children like Modesta, who can now sit unsupported as opposed to having to lie on a floor all day and to her mother, who can now get on with things at home much better.

Your support and your donations are literally changing the lives of so many of the disabled in our communities.

AN UPDATE ON MAINTENANCE CHALLENGES

Having facilitated some maintenance training for staff at health centres and provided sets of tools, AMECA followed up with visits to some of the health centres to see how the tools are being used. Pictured above, Samson, at Chilomoni Health Centre, was trying to mend some of the very damaged roofing; apparently the new claw hammer has come in very handy.
Pamela and Alon demonstrating how they were able to mend patient trolleys using the new sets of pliers. It is fairly sobering to realise that so many basic repairs can be done by the simple donation of some basic training and some simple tools.
Pictured above at Chilomoni are Pamela from the Maintenance Department and Alon, who is a much-needed Biomedical Engineer. Alon, seen here trying to fix a probe on a baby warmer, visits the health centres, dealing with the myriad of technical challenges.

DHO Dentist Wisdom demonstrating a donated state of the art dental chair and compressor, which currently, has only limited use, as the required parts to connect up the equipment were not provided. AMECA is currently looking into this situation, as if this can be fully installed, much-needed dental services for patients will be greatly enhanced.

Many of these all too common problems could be alleviated if donations could be given with the wherewithal to install the equipment, together with some sort of follow-up maintenance package; it is not enough to donate equipment without providing ongoing support and back up, as there is insufficient funding to purchase spare parts and regular supplies, making the well-intentioned and often expensive equipment donation ultimately useless.

AMECA tries really hard to assist the healthcare centre with spare parts and the odd repair. A simple cooker switch, supplied by AMECA and successfully fitted by Patricio, following his maintenance training course, makes life for the staff at the clinic a little easier. Such a simple little thing, such a huge difference.
In the maternity unit, alerted by Matron, we consider the options for a damaged waste pipe and Patricio came up with a great solution to repair the part, which saved us from having to purchase the whole new waste pipe system. As always, knowledge and education are everything, and it is becoming very apparent that staff are enthusiastic about mending things; they simply never were given the wherewithal or the tools.

UPDATE ON CROP DONATION

In our previous newsletter, we indicated that we had given donations of Carrot, Eggplant, Rape, Okra, Chinese Leaf and Onion seeds, to 4 pilot villages in the Chilomoni catchment area, to supplement the initial donations of Sweet Potato and Cassava, following the cyclone.
Revisiting Mulunguzi village together with Limbani Njewa, Community Services Manager at Beehive, and Bertha from the Outreach Team, we undertake a brief tour of some of the plots to see how things are going.
On the whole, the crops are doing well, especially the Eggplant and Okra. Apart from providing a valuable nutritional supplement, the hope is that individuals will be able to sell these crops to Beehive’s schools and in the local market. The Pilot Study, which is being monitored over the long term, has revealed a collection of enthusiastic and motivated individuals, who will receive ongoing support to establish large collective gardens after the maize harvest next year. AMECA will continue to work with Beehive to supply initial seeds for these collectives, after which the loan can be repaid from the profits from selling some of the crops and further seeds can be purchased.

 

These are small beginnings, but we are really pleased that many individuals are recognising the importance of taking responsibility, ownership and input, as opposed to the totally unsustainable notion of hand-outs. The community are furthermore recognising the importance of making compost manure, instead of a reliance on unaffordable and soil damaging artificial fertilisers. Beehive also hopes to gain ongoing involvement from the Farmers Union and from the Agriculture Extension Development Office, (AEDO.)

So, what could have just ended with simply donating some plastic sheeting for shelter following the cyclone and walking away, AMECA engaged local help from Beehive and followed through with one local community, and recognised the potential disaster of food insecurity to come. It is really pleased to witness the positive changes being made, in terms of nutritional balance, good agricultural practice and community empowerment.

IN RECOGNITION

A huge debt of gratitude to Clive and Anne, members of Rotary Club of Epsom, pictured above at Rotary’s District Conference in October. Clive and Anne gave up an entire weekend to kindly hold a stand for AMECA to promote our work and furthermore, for many years they have supported and helped out at innumerable events. The world needs more selfless souls like you.

Contrary to what many may think, fundraising is relentless and extremely hard work!! Without the selfless contribution of so many individuals at so many events over the years, we would not have achieved a fraction of what has been possible. Bless you all and thank you.

FOR ALEX

British Army doctor, paratrooper, AMECA’s inspiration and my son.
Alex, you are much loved and much missed.

THANK YOU

With profound gratitude for your support from AMECA’s Directors both in the UK and in Malawi and to our funders and supporters, including:
Grant Funders & Organisations:
The Addax & Oryx Foundation in Switzerland
The Erach & Roshan Sadri Foundation in the UK
Eagle Foundation in Switzerland
The Catz Charity Foundation in the Netherlands
The Rotary Club of Epsom, in the UK
St George’s Hill Golf Club in the UK
Friends of Malawi Association, in the UK
Michael & Betty Little Trust, in the UK
The Violet Richards Trust in the UK
The Alice Ellen Cooper-Dean Charitable Foundation in the UK
The Valentine Trust in the UK
The Association of Surgeons in Training (ASIT)   UK
Malawi.Kom in the Netherlands
Medic Foundation in the Netherlands
The church of Saint Martin of Tours, in Epsom, Surrey, UK
The church of St Mary’s, Cuddington , Surrey, UK
The Rotary Club of Ewell, UK
The Rotary Club of Addiscombe & Shirley   UK
The Rotary Club of Leatherhead   UK

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