Acute food shortage at Mzuzu One-Stop Centre
For survivors of abuse who escape to Mzuzu One-Stop Centre, the place is not so homely. A single plate of food is all they have even if they are ten of them. As PATIENCE LUNDA explores, the system does not seem to care much about these people.
On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a model for understanding the motivations for human behaviour, food is placed as one integral requirement for people’s survival.
However, such is not the case with survivors of various forms of abuses who find themselves at Mzuzu One Stop Centre (OSC).
The Daily Times has established that here, the survivors are subjected to sharing a plate of food that is provided by Mzuzu Central Hospital.
Such is the case as the centre has no budget for food and relies on the central hospital, which only affords a plate for the centre regardless of the number of survivors there.
In an interview, Mzuzu OSC coordinator, Hilda Phiri, said they receive up to ten abuse survivors in a week and about 60 in a month.
Most of them are those who have suffered sexual and physical abuse.
Phiri disclosed that they receive two plates from the hospital and one is given to the attendant on duty and the other for the survivors. This means that survivors who arrive after the food has already been served have nothing to eat.
“We receive survivors from some faraway places but once they arrive after the food has been served, then it becomes a challenge for them and if we have seven survivors they have to share the one plate of food,” Phiri said.
The OSC does not also have a vehicle that can ferry abuse survivors to the police’s Victim Support Unit (VSU), which means those that have no money have to walk a distance of about six kilometres to access VSU services.
The transport challenge also makes it hard for the OSC officials to follow up on survivors who have returned home.
The centre is also short of recreation equipment for young abuse survivors. Phiri says this makes it hard for children to open up about abuses they have endured as the environment is not conducive.
Further to this, the centre has also few staff to meet daily demands of the office.
Workers at the OSC also support other departments at Mzuzu Central Hospital, a situation which forces the abuse survivors to be moved to the hospital wards and later return to the centre in the morning due to lack of staff.
“I work at the orthopaedic ward and the one-stop centre and sometimes it becomes difficult to balance everything and this also affects us psychologically,” Phiri said.
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) Executive Director, George Jobe, said the situation at the centre is pathetic and that it needs immediate attention.
Jobe suggested the need for all stakeholders responsible for management of the OSC to mobilise resources and contribute towards ending the food challenge.
“[OSC] need to be fully stocked with all resources since this place is considered as a haven for those that have suffered various forms of abuse and this could be possible if stakeholders responsible for management of the centres could come together and provide solutions to these challenges,” he said.
Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare spokesperson, Pauline Kaude, said management of OSCs falls under district councils.
Kaude, however, indicated that the ministry will engage Mzuzu City Council and other stakeholders to ensure that services at the centre improve.
“While the centre is under our ministry, management of such centres falls under their respective councils. The ministry works with councils under decentralisation,” she said.
When asked, Mzuzu City Council (MCC) Public Relations Officer, McDonald Gondwe, said the OSC is under Mzuzu Central Hospital and that the role of the council is to ensure that officers deployed at the centre are properly discharging their duties.
Gondwe said other tasks are handled by the District Social Welfare Office.
“We are responsible for monitoring and evaluating how services are being delivered,” he said.
Mzimba North District Social Welfare Officer, Hellen Simwaka, acknowledged the challenges being faced by the OSC, saying they are already in talks with other stakeholders in a resource mobilisation initiative.
“We had a meeting and we resolved that we, together with other stakeholders, should mobilise resources for the centre,” Simwaka said.
Mzimba North District Child Protection Committee chairperson, Evans Mwale, said the situation is worrying and that it needs to be addressed swiftly.
Mwale admitted that the OSC does not have a special allocation and relies on the meal provided by Mzuzu Central Hospital.
Information from Mzuzu Police Station indicates that a total of 122 gender-based violence cases have been recorded from January to March this year, as compared to 180 which were recorded during the same period last year.
Malawi first OSC was established in 2010 at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
The OSC initiative was established to bring together all stakeholders involved in assisting victims of gender-based violence in Malawi.