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Malawi government abandons Taiwan ART site

A state-of-the-art anti-retroviral therapy (ART) clinic project at Mzuzu Central Hospital has become a white elephant following the severing of diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 2008 as government and other organisations have so far not shown interest to compete it.

Meanwhile, the central hospital continues to attend to persons living with HIV and Aids in a tiny room which compromises people’s privacy.

Mzuzu Central Hospital Director, Rose Nyirenda, confirmed to The Daily Times on Friday that since Malawi terminated its bilateral relations with Taiwan, the project was dumped by the sponsor.

Nyirenda said Taipei had pledged to make available K112 million within that year to finish the project. But since then the project stalled.

“We are currently revising the clinic plan, the new cost and donors to complete the project which has now stayed for six years. We have already identified the architect to do that for us so that when we are approaching other donors, we should have proper figures for the project. We know the figures can increase thrice from old figures but we shall see,” said Nyirenda, adding that about K340 million would be required to finish the project.

She said currently, over 4,800 people on ART who access services at the hospital have no privacy because they use a small room.

The central hospital, Nyirenda said, has so far attended to 11 000 people leaving with HIV and Aids since it was opened in 2002.

“In fact, we thought following government’s cutting of ties with Republic of China, our new friend would finish the project but, unfortunately, the building remains bushy and destroyed by the rains for the past years.

“We could have engaged government to complete the clinic but the problem is that we had our own priorities to be solved at the hospital such as rehabilitating our sewage system, constructing new water tanks and maintaining the telecommunication system within the hospital premises,” she said.

Nyirenda also said it was sad that no donor and other nongovernmental organisations have come forward to complete the project.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Adrian Chikumbe said he needed to consult when asked why the ministry showed no interest to inherit the project.

Chancellor College political analyst Mustafa Hussein described the situation as the cost of cutting ties with countries without proper mechanisms to finalise projects initiated by such donors.

“It is not wrong to terminate bilateral relations and switch to other countries, but then government was supposed to put everything in order so that Malawians are safe on the planned projects. Look now, our friends and relatives in the North are suffering silently because of their unfinished ART clinic,” he said.

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