When we arrived at Mulanje Mission Hospital (MMH) we were immediately impressed by the overall appearance and environment of the hospital. In some ways, it reminded me of Nkhoma Mission Hospital which I had visited twice which has a similar feel. There was an immediate sense of warmth and welcome, something which was made even more so when we met with Tikwonde Katumbi, Head of Primary Healthcare and some of his Team. We were soon joined by Ruth Shakespeare, the former Medical Director, who then led us on a tour of the hospital and we were quickly caught up with her passion and drive that has helped to make the Mission Hospital so effective in providing healthcare to the area. Part of the tour included a detailed discussion on the development and use of solar power at the hospital, including battery storage, and it was particularly pleasing to see the Solar Tree that had been funded through EMMS. Ruth was also very proud to show us the digital X-Ray machine that had recently been installed which takes advantage of this reliable power source.
We then returned to hear about all of the programmes that have or are being supported through EMMS with a particular emphasis again on the development of palliative care services. At present they are working with a number of outlying clinics and hospitals to extend the provision of these services within southeast Malawi as part of the Chifundo project.
After lunch at our hotel, we returned to the hospital for a home gardening visit as part of the Sustainable Livelihoods Programme. This afternoon turned out to be an unexpected highlight of the tour for many of us.
Hastings and Christopher from the programme first showed us around the large demonstration plot at MMH where a mix of indigenous and exotic vegetables was being grown with a variety of nutritional and health benefits. This was an impressive and well laid out large “kitchen garden”. We then traveled with them to visit the home of one of the palliative care patients, Mr Henderson, who was part of this Sustainable Livelihoods Programme. On arrival, we were greeted by a typical sung Malawi greeting and introduced both to Mr Henderson and to Mrs Likoma, the local lead farmer, who was supporting him and about 20 others on this programme, all on a voluntary basis.
We were then first shown his small home garden plot before walking for several minutes to the main field which he owns, where a larger plot had already been prepared for planting when the rains come. This plot had also been laid out with ridges to maximise water retention. The intention was to extend this plot to cover his whole field which was a good size and was also being used as a model site to help introduce techniques and this new crop mix to others within the village community. On the way back to our vehicle we also stopped off to see another palliative care patient’s garden plot. It was clear that both patients had real pride in their plots and participation in this programme.
We returned to our hotel that evening really inspired and one of our party, Jack, decided that Mrs Likoma would be the centerpiece of a talk he was to give to a church group on his return to the UK.