Faith community lights up Makiyoni Health Centre
It is in the middle of the night when one Soflet in her ninth month of pregnancy starts experiencing labour pains and needs immediate medical attention for safe delivery.
The nearest hospital, where she has been going for antenatal care services for the past eight months of her pregnancy, is Makiyoni Health Centre in Salima.
Opened in 1982, and tucked between Traditional Authorities (T/As) Khombedza and Mwanza, Makiyoni Health Centre is situated approximately five kilometres away from Soflet’s home and serves a population of 27,611 people from 252 villages.
With the aid of fellow villagers, Soflet’s husband has no option but to transport his wife by ox-cart, the only available means of transport in the village at that moment, to the hospital for safe delivery.
But, upon reaching the hospital, the husband is greeted by darkness, as there is no electricity.
Despite the darkness in the labour ward, the medical assistant and his colleagues work tirelessly to assist Soflet deliver the baby by using torches to light up the place. Unfortunately, due to inadequate lighting, the medical personnel fail to provide adequate assistance and Soflet ends up losing the baby upon delivery.
This is but one of the numerous scenarios Makiyoni Health Centre has been experiencing for the past seven years due to lack of electricity.
Before the problem, the health centre used to have solar power. But unscrupulous people vandalised the facility in 2007. Since then, apart from problems health personnel face in delivering pregnant women in the labour ward during the night, it has also been difficult to keep necessary vaccines that may be needed for the general population the health facility serves.
A medical assistant at Makiyoni Health Centre, Hyson Mazembe, explained: “The problem dates back to 2007. We have tried to report to the district office but we were told that due to financial problems, it was going to take long to address the problem.”
Mazembe explained that lack of electricity affects the delivery system in the labour ward especially at night, saying: “We have even been using torches on cell phones to assist women in labour”.
But, thanks to Malawi Interfaith AIDS Association (MIAA), a grouping of faith-based organisations in the country, Makiyoni Health Centre has its solar power restored.
“They promised to do this last month on March 13 and now we have electricity restored,” said Mazembe during the commissioning of the solar power at the health centre.
In a day, the health centre delivers between five and seven expectant women.
According to Mazembe, the community around Makiyoni Health Centre led by T/A Mwanza mobilised themselves and decided to talk to MIAA after feeling sidelined for ages.
MIAA, which has been implementing an initiative called “Gender equality and Women Empowerment Programme” with assistance from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) through European Union (EU), thought it worthwhile to repair the facility, as the challenge fell within the project intended purpose of empowering women.
Commissioning the solar power initiative, which has cost the organisation close to KI million, MIAA Executive Director, Robert Ngaiyaye, observed that MIAA felt obliged to assist in line with the project’s objective of making sure that women were empowered in the project implementation area.
“The community themselves isolated this problem to ensure lights are working so that maternity services are provided without interruption and also ensure that the refrigeration system is working for proper storage of vaccines,” said Ngaiyaye.
“It needed specialised workmanship and we didn’t want to compromise on quality. So we identified highly skilled people to restore the solar system here so that it can last longer,” said Ngaiyaye.
The whole system needed some power generation, but for the solar panels to work effectively, it needed strong batteries, which MIAA procured, alongside wires and bulbs.
“We hope in future we can light up the whole health centre,” said Ngaiyaye while observing that the guardian shelter at the hospital has no electricity.
Group Village Headman Mwanza warned villagers and health personnel against vandalising the restored solar system.
“I urge proper use of the facility. Please let us not abuse the solar power as it is meant for treatment of the sick. Excessive use of the electricity like charging of cell phones and car batteries will reduce the lifespan of the equipment,” he warned.
The Group Village Headman asked people in his area to guard the solar system jealously.
“Let’s safeguard this equipment restored by reporting to authorities whenever one is suspicious of vandalism,” he advised his community.
The hope is that, now that solar power has been restored at Makiyoni Health Centre, it would not be a problem handling cases such as Soflet’s.
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