Nurse sacrifices own joy for pregnant women
Moved by the plight of pregnant women in the community where she works, a nurse who is about to retire forwent an opportunity to gather assets for her family. She instead offered it to the health centre where she works. SAM KALIMIRA writes.
Lucy Kaunda, 37, from Galang’ombe Village, Traditional Authority Timbiri in Nkhata Bay, is among several women who delivered their babies in the bush on their way to Nkhata Bay District Hospital.
She recalls that as she was being assisted by her grandmother to deliver, some children were peeping at them from a distance.
That happened 17 years ago.
The experience she went through makes her to always revere Elizabeth Nyali, a nurse at Chisale Health Centre, who she says changed lives of many women in the area.
“Life was not easy, especially for pregnant women. It was not easy to find transport money for travelling to the district hospital. That is why many of us could deliver in the bush,” Kaunda says.
Her mother, Mercy Banda, concurs that delivering at the hands of traditional birth attendants was the norm in the area.
Banda admits that women in the area do not understand how Nyali bailed the community out of the misery.
Nyali, who comes from Mulanje District, was transferred to the Chisale Health Centre in 2009 to follow her husband, who works at Kawalazi Tea Estate.
She is behind the construction of a maternity wing and two houses now occupied by nurses at the facility.
Nyali says she won the hearts of foreign well-wishers who came to the area to construct a school block near the health centre.
For three months, she could prepare meals for the foreign nationals on voluntary basis.
“After completing their work, when they were going back, they asked me to mention anything they could do for me as a token of appreciation for the work I did. I did not hesitate to tell them to construct a maternity section at the health centre,” Nyali says.
After returning home, the well-wishers came again and constructed the maternity wind apart from paying for electricity connection to the facility.
Nyali says this was the genesis for the facility to start offering maternity health service.
After a year, some other foreign well-wishers approached her to show them a piece of land where they could build her a retirement home, as a way of appreciating her love for the community.
This was after they realised that she was remaining with a few years to retire but she had not put up any permanent home.
However, Nyali suggested that the house should be constructed within the health centre’s premises. After the works were done, she donated it to the hospital and convinced her seniors to send another nurse to work in the maternity wing.
“To me what matters most is seeing people, especially pregnant women being properly taken care of. They have to access quality health services,” Nyali says.
She believes civil servants have the ability to bring change in the communities where they work, saying not everything can be done by government.
Group Village Head Galang’ombe says his people got motivated to mould bricks for the projects after Nyali connected the well-wishers with the local leadership.
“Now that we have a maternity wing, we formed bylaws that every woman should deliver at the hospital. We don’t want to see them giving birth at home anymore,” Galang’ombe says.
Nkhata District Health Promotion Officer, Milika Khoza, said the facility has helped to reduce cases of women delivering at home and in bushes.
Khoza added that nurses currently working at Chisale Health Centre professionally assist pregnant women and other patients.
“Since the maternity wing was constructed, we have not received any case of a woman delivering on their way to hospital,” he said.
Malawi Equity Health Network Executive Director George Jobe said Nyali’s contribution to the health sector needs to be emulated by others.
Jobe suggested that awarding such nurses would help to encourage others and communities to work together in assisting government achieve a vision of providing quality health services to all.
“If the chances were given to others, they would have chosen things that would benefit themselves or their families. But she thought about the community first,” Jobe said.