The Chira Fund has been in existence for more than 10 years, with the aim of improving the quality of care, comfort and dignity of adult patients in Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi.
There are over 10,000 admissions to the hospital each year. 80% of those admitted are infected with HIV and 30% of people who are admitted die on the ward. Although there have been many significant improvements in the past years, the wards continue to be overcrowded, with frequent drug shortages and a severe lack of medical and maintenance staff.
We receive donations from organisations, friends, past and present staff and well wishers from all over the world; however as is the case in most hospitals worldwide, adult medical wards are not usually the target of benevolent donors. It is important, however, to remember that in these beds lies someone’s mother or father, brother or sister and very often the breadwinner of the family. We use the money to provide for everyday needs for the hospital’s patients, who are among the poorest of the poor. We aim particularly to provide a cleaner environment, better toilet and ablution facilities, wheelchairs and, in emergencies, drugs that may be temporarily out-of-stock.
how we began
by ChiraFund founder, Malcolm Molyneux
I worked in the Medicine wards of the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), Blantyre, Malawi from 1975 to 1984, and then again from 1995 to 2015. During these years, several changes led to huge increases in the workload of the hospital. The national population increased 3-fold from ~6 million to ~18 million. The HIV pandemic moved in in ~1985.
For several years we had no anti-retroviral drugs, until these became affordable and a national control programme was started. And Malawi launched its first medical school, the College of Medicine, for which QECH was the designated teaching hospital.
It became increasingly obvious that resources were not available to keep the clinical services and the ward environments in a condition suitable for the increasing demands for good clinical care and for good teaching. Among the staff in the Department of Medicine in 2005 was a young clinician, Dr Trower, who suggested that we should start a special Fund to pay for improvements to the fabric of the wards and the wellbeing of patients. She felt that such a fund might attract contributions from local companies and from the many doctors who had served in the wards over recent years.
We all agreed with this suggestion, and named the new enterprise the Chira Fund. The Chira Fund exists to provide regular improvements to the hospital wards and premises, so that patients, guardians, students and staff have an environment conducive to recovery and learning. While Chira started in the Dept of Medicine, it now contributes to many other QECH areas including the Guardians’ Shelter (just outside the hospital), clean and reliable water supplies, hygienic toilet facilities, some emergency drug needs, any repairs that need attention, and the provision of local volunteer ‘guardians’ for patients who have nobody to care for their daily needs.
Many members of staff and former alumni have made, and continue to make, important contributions to the Fund and its work. Special mention must be made of George Musowa, who has led the project on the ground for years, and Alice Taylor, who has pioneered many avenues for identifying needs for fundraising locally and internationally. These two indefatigable warriors have been supported by many more who have given time, effort and money to the cause.
I had the pleasure, in 2011, of gathering some friends, all of us rather ancient, to cycle from Land’s End to John’o’Groats in UK – the length of the country – to raise funds, amounting eventually to £20,000, that we shared between Chira Fund and a similar scheme in the Department of Paediatrics).
By its nature, Chira supports efforts that must be maintained constantly, to overcome the natural tendency of structures to deteriorate. It has been immensely rewarding to observe the energy and generosity of so many who have kept this worthwhile endeavour going.