Since 2010 ChiraFund (Chira is Chichewa for ‘get well’) has been helping to improve the quality of care, comfort and dignity of adult medical patients in Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi.
Up to 30% of the 10,000 patients admitted to the hospital every year are HIV positive and more than 30% of those admitted will not survive. The HIV crisis, population growth and lack of funds for maintenance has resulted in hospital wards that are seriously overcrowded and poorly maintained. As is often the case worldwide, adult medical patients are not often the target of donor funding.
It is important to remember that each patient is someone’s mother or father, brother or sister and very often the breadwinner of the family. We use donated funds to provide for essential, everyday needs of the patients such as hand soap, toilet paper, toilets and showers, as well as food supplements for those who are malnourished. We also provide a Guardian to care for those who have no one to look after them.
Undertaking and successfully completing projects such as these would not have been possible without ChiraFund’s strong partnership with Queens hospital administration and with the other charities based at Queens.
At Queens the medical wards originally built to accommodate 30 patients now regularly house more than 70. As a result, the nurses have more work than they can manage, so anyone admitted to Queens must bring a Guardian with them, and most patients do. The Guardian is usually a close family member whose role is to do what a nurse in the UK would normally do. A Guardian will cook for the patients, help them eat, wash them, take them to the toilet, and do their laundry. They also help patients take their medications and transport them to any investigations they require. They act as a voice for patients who are unable to communicate their needs.
Unfortunately, some patients arrive at Queens without a Guardian, generally for one of these three reasons:
Unconsciousness or amnesia: some patients are brought in by the police or well-wishers when unconscious. Sometimes when they regain consciousness, they still do not know who they are for a while.
Migrant workers: those who have come from the village to the city to look for work. These migrant workers are generally poor and may struggle to even reach the hospital if they are suddenly taken ill. They will have no one to come with them when they become a patient.
Those whose families cannot help: the only family member capable of being a Guardian may be the breadwinner and so unable to miss work. If the patient is ill for a prolonged period the strain on the family of trying to provide the support required becomes impossible. Even getting to and from the hospital on a daily basis may be an impossible financial burden for many families.
When the nurses find a patient in need of a Guardian they contact ChiraFund and we arrange to provide a Guardian who will look after the patient during the day.
Health & Hygiene Supplies
A significant area of ChiraFund’s work is the daily supply of essential resources for patients and staff. We see many malnourished patients admitted, who, without a good diet are unable to benefit from the treatment they receive. We, therefore, supply chiponde (a fortified food supplement based on peanut butter). This can be prescribed by the medical staff and often has dramatic results. We also provide a regular donation of likuni phala (a fortified porridge) which is provided for all the hospital inpatients as a supplement to their normal breakfast meal in the morning.
Soap and toilet roll supplies are a vital requirement for the hygienic running of any hospital but are in short supply at Queens. ChiraFund, therefore, supplies these items for the medical wards.
We also purchase medical drugs which would otherwise not be available for patients.
ChiraFund undertakes building projects within the hospital to provide a safe and sanitary environment for patients. These have included a major refurbishment of the Guardians Shelter; mosquito netting to the windows of the burns ward; refurbishing of several wards’ toilet and shower blocks; repair of damaged sewers.
As the water supply to the hospital is often interrupted it is also very important to have a backup supply of water tanks to keep the taps open. In collaboration with donors, we have installed a number of water tanks around the hospital.