Moving up a gear in 2009

Projects Year End 2009
Pumps
Factory: After months of frustration with the District Commissioner for lands, changes of mind, payments for work we had already done and even more bureaucracy than Ireland we finally got planning permission and started foundations on July 30, featuring an amazing team from Blackrock College Outreach 2009, who matched the local experts on the hoe and pick, lost sweat and blood, but bruised and blistered achieved the unimaginable, by digging the foundations in two days. The second group carried and stacked out all the bricks In between they managed to blow bubbles and balloons, have some craic and keep the sunny side out. They Inspired, were Educated and definitely Challenged. What a crew!!
Later they mixed and wheeled and really got this project off the ground and by now, it’s complete and functioning. In fact the building has 3 units and includes the pump factory, a joinery unit for school furniture and beehives. The third is a kind of advance factory which we will eventually rent
The final push came when we found out that the Irish Ambassador to Malawi, Liam MacGabhann was coming to Mzuzu on November 6 and we wanted to show it off. He came; we were ready and he was impressed. The word is that we can now make about10 pumps a week, which can give clean water to 1000 remote villagers. This is an amazing achievement by our all Malawian workforce, without a mechanised implement in sight.
In Mid January we got our electrical supply from Escom, two years after we signed the contract and paid. This only happened when we bought the cable 800 km away in Blantyre, having already paid Escom for it in the original contract. Imagine the only supplier of mains electricity haven’t the money to pay for cable!!

One of 28 pumps close to the Tanzanian border in the North

Pump Installation: Wells are best dug by communities in November when the water table is at its lowest. The community then collect and build the bricks and make the concrete cover and include a metal coupler into which the pump is fixed. We supply the cement and screw in the pump when everything is ready. The preliminaries include visiting the village, getting a committee, doing a little deal which involves a commitment to contribute money, labour, and land to the common community or another community to give them the dignity of ownership. This after all is a hand up and not a hand out. When the pump is in, they owe us (a favour at least), and they know we will come to collect.
When we have installed a pump, we then have a relationship with the community and the surrounding area and progress to look at other needs like seeds, irrigation, training and dams. We invite them to Lusangazi and try little by little to meet more needs. We figure (having talked to village women), that clean locally available water is the first step on the development ladder and it’s only upwards from there on.

Of course will sell pumps to other Agencies and at the moment we have begun to supply pumps to about 5 groups mainly from the UK who have small projects here, who have learned how to install and maintain them. We also have orders from about 9 countries in Africa and South America through a US group called SIFAT who in turn work with and train Baptist Pastors from remote rural communities.

We have a good and developing relationship with DIT ( Dublin Institute of Technology) and with whom we are developing a strategic plan for the future development trips and placements. On the pump side they are working on developing a new version of the pump so that it will soon be made from materials, all of which will be available in Malawi. One student of Mechanical engineering will do his thesis on non glued methods of pipe connection which will be a huge help to us.
I am also looking at a simpler version, needing only the most rudimentary of tools to make. All new technologies discovered will be available, by Public Domain to anyone, worldwide, who wants to use modify and develop them.
At the moment we have identified in excess of 200 locations which have non functioning pumps and wells as a result of poor or un maintainable pumps. We are meeting communities, doing deals, prioritising and working towards solving the problems.

CCAP, (the Presbytarian Church of Central Africa, Livingstonia Synod) is a group that have installed over 8000 pumps over the past 15 years, have recently asked us to machine parts for their pump. Harisen has had a few days training, and he has taught William. Their achievements have been nothing short of miraculous

We have just completed an order of 200 pumps the Australian NGO, Every home for Christ/ Global Concern. In early July, Harisen installed their first two pumps. They had their media people on it, brought the video back to Australia and have raised the funds!! I visited the Karonga area close to the Tanzanian border in early November to deliver twenty pumps and begin training and installation. Part of their consignment will go to Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. We are still waiting for the first export
They also work in Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia, so we hope to have our first few exports soon.
We are convinced that access to clean water and effective sanitation has a catalytic effect on many aspects of human development, being essential for a healthy population and environmental sustainability

Lusangazi

Lusangazi farm staff from left Charity, Vasco (son Randwell) Mary, Elinis, Binna, Joyce ans Mary Monza

Model garden: Bought by W4Z in November 2007, it is run by 14 dedicated men and women, with little formal education, sharp intellects, who are learning and developing by the hour, growing plants and doing research.
This is a six acre plot in Lusangazi, about 8km from Mzuzu and 500 metres off the M1. It is essentially a research farm looking at suitable plants worldwide to find out how they grow and at what time of year. All seeds are open pollinated, come from geographically similar regions, are grown without artificial fertilizer or artificial pesticides and are grown by a bio intensive method where plants are close together and the soil is double dug.
The aim is to produce and save seeds which are then given to suitable and trained farmers locally. So far we have set up a simple watering system from a small earthen dam and a series of channels, which enables us to farm year round. Simplicity of design is fundamental which can be copied at no (or very low) cost by anyone who so desires. Where bamboo is available we use it instead of plastic pipe. All workers here are employed by W4Z and get basic pay in excess of similar workers in Government employment All their food is produced here and each day, Josephine, our cook, employed by W4Z makes a variation of meals from the farm.
Seedling production: We also have two greenhouses in Lusangazi where we propagate improved variety fruit trees by budding and grafting. We grow citrus rootstock from lemon seed. Orange, Lime, Lemon are Tangerine are produced by budding. We also produce Avocado, Paw Paw, Mango, Apples, Pears, Guava, Pineapples, and Moringa
Recently we have moved into fish and chicken production and looking forward to rearing new variety hens for eggs.
We use bought in chicken, cow and horse manure, compost everything including anything our neighbours threaten to burn and have begun growing our own manure!! How green is that?
We make and experiment with pesticides from any smelly plant we can find and have had great success with Tephrosia, Tobacco, Sage and Dahlias which we apply with a soap solution.
We have failed to grow good tomatoes, refusing to use all the toxic chemicals available which everyone else uses, but Benidicto is on it and we are very hopeful. We are not trying to kill all our enemies but to achieve a healthy balance. We are now trying to enlist the help of birds by growing hedges to attract them to nest!!

Capuchin Secondary School
We are also supporting the local Capuchin Parish with their new secondary school, We are also funding the secondary education of 6 girls, as educated women will educate whole villages.

Women’s Guild
A local guild of women and young men are being educated in cooking, carpentry and bricklaying in the St John of God, Vocational Centre in Mzuzu, with our help. Mary is also working with this group on the establishment of a centre to provide adult education and pre schooling.
Our feeling is that they have clean water, access to horticultural training, seeds and seedlings, so a bit of education won’t harm them!!

Primary School
We are also working with the primary schools with sports equipment, books and education in horticulture. During the summer the Blackrock Outreach boys, besides having two amazing sports days, painted four classrooms to the delight of everyone in the area. We also replaced their broken pump.

Birthing Centre

This is also a project in Lusangazi about 3 km from the model garden and is another project where we are trying to meet community needs.
• As a result of a recent governmental edict, all traditional birth attendants have been banned and women now have to attend distant (maybe 50km) or overflowing Hospitals walking, cycling or by wheelbarrow. Anyway we have completed this building, a health post, where a variety of health activities will take place. I don’t know if Lilian will deliver babies there, but she is the number one woman with the people from the Central Hospital.
The Mzuzu Health Clinic has already begun using the building to deliver its inoculation service (for the first time). The District health surveillance officer is delighted with the development and has began working on mosquito nets, soaking them in anti mosquito chemical. The building has two one bed wards, a toilet/shower area, an office and a waiting room. We now hope to add a borehole for water, a tank, a P.V solar panel for pumping and lighting and a water heating panel. The director will have a mobile phone to ring the clinic and of course a solar charger!! We have also been promised help from a missionary Capuchin nurse from their local mission.
Adding a herb and vegetable garden is a must, where we will try to grow plants, rich in iron and vitamins specifically geared to pregnancy and birthing complications. I know if we can focus on this it will happen soon.

Sonda

This is an area about 8km from Mzuzu City where we have 4 projects

Lower Field: This is a co operative horticulture project which began at Easter 2007. The chief allocated an area of dambo land (essentially a swamp) where he admitted that nothing had grown “since creation began”. It was a major challenge which involved draining, digging and building a dam. In two weeks the first crops were planted and an irrigation process was put in place. The only cost was a few hoes and the seeds. We used farmyard manure and began a composting process. We use only compost, green manure and natural pesticides. The co operative system works well and badly as the personnel move in and out. The current issue is that our leader believes he is bewitched (swollen glands, swollen and closed eyes, difficulty walking and attending an African doctor) because he got a donation of a cow. It has seriously affected progress but may be the subject of future stories. This is the real Malawi and so close to us.
The real success of this development is the copycat effect. Others have copied the system with varying degrees of success, and now most people get at least two crops per year.
All that’s involved is a simple earthen dam with simple earthen channels, no cost technology, which everyone can copy. We love people to steal our ideas!

Upper Field
We bought this last year. In one part we are planting Jatropha trees from whose seeds one can extract a type of diesel fuel. The rest we will use for fish ponds and agricultural education in association with Sonda Youth.

Sonda Youth
This is a local youth project with an amazing building built by a group of Dutch Dentists, ostensibly to give vocational training to orphans. In the absence of orphans, they now take all comers of all ages (It seems). The Dutch handed the place over to St Johns Hospital and recently large funds have been misplaced and the staff in Sonda Youth have only been paid twice in the past nine months. At present 3 senior staff in St Johns Hospital, including administrator, and financial controller are in court facing charges of misplacing 69 million. Far from the ideals of the Medical Missionaries of Mary, who founded the place?
In order to help we have given the horticulture people access to the upper field but will now have to add serious training to the seeds already supplied.
Just another example of meeting needs.
Sonda Primary School
Last year we looked at the plight of 1258 pupils with 8 classrooms and felt that even simple division didn’t work here. Electric Aid emailed following an interview we had with Pat Kenny and they were willing to fund 4 new classrooms and restore the existing ones. The deal was that we would supply the cement and roof materials and the local community would supply all the labour. With nine chiefs it was difficult, blood from a stone likeness!!. We are nearly there, with the Blackrock Outreach 2009 Crew coming to our rescue with the painting, where last year’s crew helped with the construction. Sticking to your principles is tough, but it’s the only way to go as we don’t do handouts. We just waited for the local community to move and eventually it happened.
Newly plastered, painted and decorated rooms should give a great boost to the staff on their return from holidays. The new school principal should also be encouraged.


Salisbury Line Orphan Day-care Centre
In August 2008 we were approached by a women’s group who introduced themselves as a group with an orphan care centre looking for help.
We investigated them and agreed to help. What we found was a wooden building without a roof and a group of maybe 100 starved looking little ones, singing welcome visitors we love you (which should have been enough to set alarm bells ringing but all we saw was the little ones, with their swollen bellies and rags).
In November 2008 we bought a plot adjacent to their building and also the land they were supposed to own! We built a two classroom building which was opened in Feb 9, 2009 and called it Aras Kate.
We returned in March to find maybe 300 children, teachers with no training and no pay, trying to cope, and Mary set about putting some shape on it!!
The situation was probably typical of a type of people calling themselves groups or organisations. They have some backgrounds in minor beau racy, set up around say orphan care or orphanages, find donors, pay themselves large administration fees, deliver little of what they promise, and when the donor money is gone move on to another source of funding. Most is about money and little is about delivery of service. This is not a once off occurence, it’s part of the scenery in Malawi and I’m sure elsewhere, where poor control and accountability wastes millions and delivers little.
In March with the help of our friends and analysts from the DIT student group, Mary set about employing and training eight staff (a three week course), most without formal education. I can now confidently report that this place is amazing and would rival anything of its kind anywhere. We have a great team and a hoard of well fed happy little ones.
Nine staff, 250 little ones, all happy, all fed and looking well despite the deprivation of the area.
The care centre operates 7.30am to 11.30am, but now it is developing a life of its own after midday.
The latest news is that an agreed management structure has been put in place with two nominees from W4Z, two from Mbaweme, the chief, one teacher nominee and two parents, male and female. The chair will be Charity Amin who will also be school principal. Charity was the driving force of the resolution to our difficulties. (Drs Paddy and Gary will attest to her communication skills)
Mary invited parents to a meeting, more than 120 came. They discussed the needs of the area, brought home wool and needles, asked for primary school classes (for themselves) beginning at the lowest level. As a first activity they agreed to start with netball twice a week, a stroke of genius and a resounding success. Imagine arriving at 7 am on the day of a proposed session to find four ladies of the night, marking the pitch eight hours early!
Drs Paddy and Gary, from the second Blackrock group, gave a talk on health and dental care to a packed and enthusiastic house another evening.
Mary has set up a knitting club for the teen girls.
As they say watch this space.

The Future of Áras Kate.
As I was concluding with watch this space, news has just arrived from Mzuzu. The City Assembly have taken our proposal on board and allocated an adjoining piece of land to us. If it was simple then all would be well, but unfortunately much work and wrangling has to be done now. A squatter has, illegally, assumed ownership of this land and we will have to negotiate a payment, for no other reason than we have to. At least the City Assembly will initiate the process and they say they will make the final decision in the event of a stalemate!! Harisen and Charity are on it, so all will be well.
The decision to give us more land was as a result of the production of a Memorandum of Understanding for the future of the project in Salisbury line, which outlined the history, future plans and concerns we have;

It is our intention to fund the activities of Áras Kate into the future by paying teachers/carers, providing porridge, continuing supervision, assessment and in-service by Mary Coyne of Wells for Zoe and supporting the continuation and enhancement of the school programmes.

Fundamental to the ongoing progress of the school is the involvement of the local community:
• Initially by overseeing the formation of a school management committee with representation from City Assembly and DEM office.
• We then envisage an increasing role for parents by inviting them to assist in activities as volunteers, at first.
• Setting up a Parent/Teacher Association to give opportunities to parents/carers to voice their needs and concerns and to enlist their support in the day to day running of the school.
• Realising that many parents have had a poor start with their own formal education, we feel that the promotion and implementation of Adult Education is vital, to enable parents to play their full role. Towards this end Charity Amin and two other local nominees will attend Adult Education training, paid for by Wells for Zoe and provided by Mrs Misika of the Community Development office, in Áras Kate in early January 2009. (It will never be our intention to pay any kind of expenses or allowances for such training)
• Liaise with three feeder Primary schools: Katoto, Michangatua and Chibavi.
• Check on progress and attendance of children transferring from Mbawemi/Áras Kate. Follow up with parents as may be necessary.
• Extend the school building add extra toilet blocks, a larger efficient septic tank, build a kitchen and extend the play area. For this we will require additional lands adjoining the present school site. (For which we have already made a proposal to the City Assembly).

Our Concerns
Wells for Zoe sees sustainable development as a dynamic process that can not be forced but more-so supported through interactive respectful partnerships
Running a facility like we envisage in Salisbury Line is a big undertaking for any community in any country and needs the help of many people and agencies. Over the coming years it is envisaged that through the School Management Committee and the Parents Association, Mbawemi/Áras Kate Preschool will become an established community based programme, reaching out to the community and managed and sustained by the community and an excellent team of trained teachers and carers. It must be a community based programme, but there are so few people with the background or skill to call on, at the moment, that it probably needs hands-on support for the next ten years from Wells for Zoe, gradually handing over to the community little by little. The director, teachers and carers have made such strides in less than a year to make this a place that anyone would be proud of, anywhere in the world. That gives us great hope.
Conversely, the Mbawemi Women’s Project have delivered on none of their promises and agreements and to date have failed to contribute in any meaningful way to the management or day to day involvement in the place. We have no issues about working with them, they did after all make the start, but we would like to know how and when they might be able to make a contribution. In light of recent developments, in Malawi, regarding misappropriation of donor funding of orphan care developments, it is important that all involved in the management of Mbawemi/Áras Kate Pre School would realise the importance of transparency and honesty. Wells for Zoe will fund the project, in total, for the next five years by including it in their five year plan. Any extra funding that might become available for this programme, through the Mbawemi Women’s Project must be passed on to the School Management Committee for further development of the programme at Salisbury Line. Wells for Zoe will not tolerate any misappropriation of funds.

Cost
Feeding and looking after the little ones in Áras Kate is a real joy and even though it is not the main focus of our work, it probably is one of the most rewarding despite all the hassles and difficulties.
At the moment we feed about 260 each day, (well the pot is full and some days the grannies and others do better) which includes little ones, teachers, volunteers and anyone else who comes to us hungry.
The meal is a porridge made from Maize, Soya, Groundnuts, Sugar, Salt and Honey.
We are hoping to add a vitamin supplement of dried Moringa leaves soon.
The cost of this is in the region of 168 Euros per month, which equates to about 3 cents per day. Anyone who compares how the children look now compared to last January will be amazed at the improvement.
Our other cost is for the wages of teachers, carers, and a cook; ten people in total is about, 230 Euros per month.
We would love if some group of people, staff, club or other could take on this task for us for a day, a week, or a month.
At the moment, a school in the UK, Wootton Bassett School, has paid for the food for seven months; One year group took on funding this and 15 wells. Don’t know them, never saw them: what a wonderful effort
Is there anyone out there to continue?

Luvuwu Full primary School
This is a real success story involving the awakening of a community to its own potential.
Further: What a difference a year makes
The impact of last year’s group has had a lasting and impressive impact on the remote, rural community in Luvuwu. The original project involved the whole community in the construction of a three classroom primary school in two weeks: no outside experts, no big fuss, no one got paid, just a real helping hand, of equals on a mission, where the students paid for the cement and the roof.
In the past year, this, now fired up and confident community have built a road and a bridge, shortening the distance to Mzuzu by four miles, got the Ministry to build a dam and have got the status of a full primary school. They have also worked hard on our local aids support group and food production.
Just recently they have built a new house for their excellent teacher Mr Williams and put a new metal roof on the Principal’s house.
They now have presses full of school books, mainly from Clontarf girls primary school, blackboards, maps and later in the year their first students will go to secondary school.
This is what inspiration can achieve; no one laid bricks, plastered or did carpentry; we all did the menial tasks. We carried bricks, sand from the river, and water from the well, as part of a community. There were no handouts just a little constructive funding.
They also carried babies, played games, sang, danced, had fun and enjoyed themselves.
I don’t know if anyone fully recognises the amazing students we have had as volunteers, and it’s up to every new crew to bring their individual talents and skills to the poorest of the poor and I for one have every confidence in them and look forward to being there. Their strength is in being themselves and how they relate to the Malawian people.
One student Liam Stewart, a third year business student, has a the unique achievement of getting permission to do his placement with us, going out on April 7 for six months, working on putting a structure on our business efforts. This was Liam’s third visit in the year and he has made a huge impact.
Summer 2009 has seen the return of a legendary figure in Luvuwu, Elaine Bolger from Blackrock, who has now become one of their own. She arrived back with books and loads of sports equipment, not to mention the two tilly lamps and parafin.
Standard 8 students in preparation for their final primary school exam have decided to stay in the school overnight and the lamps are enabling them to do extra work.
A little spark has lit a huge fuse in this community. They are now looking for micro credit for little businesses, advice on agriculture and irrigation and more simple help.
This development has little to do with money and all to do with restoration of dignity and a small dose of inspiration, education and challenge.
This is a DIT students project and we are very proud of them.

Our business strategy for Malawi.
We constantly mention that solving problems in sub Saharan Africa is not all about money and more money, it’s more about people. Of course anything to do with construction or transport needs money and we are so appreciative of all the support we get and all the effort people put in on behalf of W4Z..
Fundraising is a time consuming and expensive exercise and this is why we have avoided it to date. Our friends have done this for us, none more so than Blackrock College Outreach programme. The money raised has enabled us to do many simple and not too expensive programs, and other more expensive infrastructural efforts without agonising about fundraising.
In anticipation of some funding shortfall, in recessionary times, we have taken the view that by careful planning and business strategies, there is potential for some of our projects to generate funds which can be ploughed back into the general fund for all projects.

Lodge for Volunteers:
At the moment we are in the process of completing a four bedroom house for volunteers in one of the better areas of Mzuzu. We have just applied to build what is called, a boy’s quarters, which will double our bedroom space. Once we are up and running the local commercial lodge has agreed to rent our spare capacity.
We will employ a number of people to operate the place, like, cook, cleaners, watchmen, gardeners and others who we will train and pay. This in itself is beneficial to the area in terms of training and work experiences, but also makes sound commercial sense. If we were just to rent it out, by the month, it would pay for itself in about 5 years, after which time the positive cash flow would contribute to funding our projects.

The Farm
Our main focus on the farm is seed and seedling production, research and horticultural education, which all cost money. The addition of fish and chickens (a natural extension of what we do) will bring in revenue from sales.
We grow strawberries to produce runners and new plants, but the fruit is a lucrative by product.
We also have about 600 banana trees, and so can sell about 60000 bananas each year.

Citrus Trees
We have recently sown-out improved variety citrus seedlings, from which we will get buds and scion wood for future propagation. Here again the fruit is an added bonus, from which we will profit, either by selling or making fruit juice. To this end we have baught about 4 extra acres of land at the roadblock and more adjoining the farm in Lusangazi

In the past four years, Lilongwe had expanded out of all recognition and I would expect Mzuzu to be next, thereby creating a market for much of the produce we can spare.
SO the winners are all the people we will employ or subcontract or help to set up in business and all those we will teach and train: Some winners will be those who will copy what we have learned.
BUT our main focus is on pumps, which are not for profit, and many of which will be almost free (except for a few days labour, some bricks, manure) or whatever will ensure the dignity of ownership to the communities who get them.

General Programmes
Our general and small scale village projects begin with, and centre around, a well and a pump. We are told about a need, we visit the people, assess the need, (looking at the distance to the nearest source of clean water), outline what we require in terms of digging, bricks and labour, ask them about a contribution towards the cost of the pump, like a few days labour on another project, a bag of compost, some manure, some bricks. The gesture is more important than it’s value as we need to bring the dignity of ownership and the resultant respect for the pump. There will always be little indicators in a village as to whether they can afford to contribute or not!!
Having established the pump, we then discuss irrigation, seeds, education, and on a needs basis try to help further. Further association with a village is vital, as we can then monitor the pump and assist with any faults, which are rare, but a pump is a machine and you never know.
Since we started manufacturing the pump in Mzuzu earlier at the end of last year, I think we have installed in excess of 50 pumps, so that’s 50 new villages and maybe 5000 extra villagers to remember!
For a tiny organisation that’s a big responsibility. In most cases we are the only outside help these people get and I’m wondering how it can be done without administrators, which are such a drain on the finances of all societies, particularly those in sub Saharan Africa.

Innovation
People constantly ask, what we will do next and I usually say more of the same; meeting needs, but even to get incremental progress you need to be constantly vigilant.
We recognise that in order to achieve lasting results, it is necessary to establish solid partnerships with as many organisations as possible. We are already working on programs that have the potential to scale up significantly in the region, we are also working some particularly innovative practices which may be replicated elsewhere.
Our work with Every home Global Concern may be the first of these partnerships, where we will initially train their communities in well building, pump installation and pump maintenance, supply them with pumps at cost price, and then look at innovative methods of designing modified pumps to meet their needs by working, on design innovation, with the Engineering Department of the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), and other interested parties.
As always: A work in Progress

Kazando
This are has been a slow starter, from feeding them in 2007, building a dam and fish pond in 2008. (Chris and Aidan with the Blackrock Outreach 2008 group, will remember the black, dirty soggy, hole, forever) The good news is that the community have finally been inspired to build and with our help stock a second fish pond. They have also worked on the dam and added many families to the irrigation project. More children are going to school since we renewed our efforts with the primary school, and finally they have begun a nursery school. Now it looks awful and when we arrived to try and help, we found a dispute between the two voluntary teachers and the 10 strong committee. We have asked the chief (Matthews) to intervene and I’m sure that progress will be made, slowly!!

Our Academic association with DIT We are delighted to be associated with The Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). The students have been inspirational and are all now part of the W4Z family.
We have now linked with a number of Academic and Research Departments;

  • The MSC in International Business,
  • Students learning with Communities,
  • the School of Computing, as well as Business and Marketing.

Plans are underway to have a number of students on placement, with W4Z, in Ireland and Malawi next year from these departments as well as academic research and an MSc Consultancy.
This is a new and exciting development and something to really look forward to, in the New Year.

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Can we put a worth on women?

This is coming a bit late, but is a relevant issue every day
During Christmas Day, 16 women died of pregnacy-related causes in Malawi.. At the global scale one woman will die every minute due to complications in childbirth or during pregnancy.
Having just had my first grandchild born in the general hospital in Edinburgh, on December 12, with all the care, love and attention from the staff, that such a miracle deserves, this nightmare of human suffering must stop. It is a never ending succession of human rights violations and we have to realize and recognize it as just that.
An undignified and unjust reality which disturbingly alarms us, who have been privileged to experiencing the joyful and prosperous day of a successful childbirth, to neither accept nor allow this day,– or tomorrow, to be passing in silence – on behalf of these women.
In June 2009 (UN) member states recognized that “the unacceptable high global rate of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity is a health, development and human rights challenge; NO it’s a crime, so, let us just start agreeing that the lives of pregnant women in Malawi, are worth something.
What amazes me in Malawi is that everyone talks constantly about gender equality, but as with most things never relate it to the concrete, but, of course, the victims are poor, powerless and female. Vice President, Joyce Banda states outspokenly that “the situation would be different if men were giving birth too”.
I have great respect for Joyce Banda, a powerful women’s role model, but I’m bemused by three recent decisions of her Government.
The banning of traditional birth attendants. While realizing that there are some scary cultural practices, I feel that working with Traditional authorities and registering and training TBA’s would have been a much better interim measure. She must realize that they have neither the hospitals, staff, or transport to bring all mothers to hospital and the recent lack of Forex and the indications of donors withholding funds augers poorly for this notion. Many countries have excellent networks of midwife/carers who can cope with the easier childbirths.
Her Statement that “Every woman must deliver in hospitals and should arrive six weeks before her expected delivery date in order to prevent delays,” This is a wonderful ideal which would be difficult even in the most developed countries with good healthcare. But, in Malawi pregnant women probably have many children at home. Who will feed them, who will carry water, firewood, till, harvest and generally replace her not to mention where would they stay and who would feed them, some of whom would be very distant from home. If feel that in anyone’s language, this idea may be unworkable and need a rethink.
Making student nurses pay for their education without any subsidy: The previous two points are predicated by the idea that huge numbers of extra healthcare staff would be needed, but this year a first year nurse must pay 355000 MKw (€1700) for their training. This flies in the face of all the huge billboard advertising last year about how many nurses were needed, that they were angels and how well we should look after them. This year, I’m told that only about 30% of the nursing places have been taken up and many will drop out after the first term as a result of their inability to pay. This may equate to over €100,000 euro in Ireland. Imagine the rebellion that would cause.
Vice President Banda became the country’s Goodwill Ambassador for Safe Motherhood on August 7, 2009 . The African Union,has talked a lot about Malawian women, stating that: “maternal mortality is preventable, we know the formula, we know what to do and the deaths can be reduced drastically. She is talking the talk, but has still to manage the synchronized walking. But she is a powerful woman and I feel that she really cares.
Political will is not enough, serious action is needed. My feeling is the future of Malawi is with it’s women, so what are their lives worth and who cares.