The following is an extract from an article by David Pratt which was published in the Sunday Herald on 23/11/14.
Aida worries a lot. She agonises about her kids, where their next meal will come from, and not being able to do little chores around the house.
Mary-John Glanya worries too. For her it is the terrifying prospect of being left alone if her husband Lloyd is forced to find work elsewhere so they can make ends meet. Tuberculosis of the spine has robbed both women of the ability to walk. Their condition and the poverty they face is for most of us unimaginable.
Now, as you read this, Aida and Mary will probably be lying on the same concrete floors of the sweltering brick shacks where I recently met them in the Mulanje district of Malawi.
What follows is not an easy story. How can it be when it deals with the things we all fear most: incurable illness, the vulnerability of our loved ones, loneliness, dying.
That we fear such things comes with good reason. During our lives the chances are most of us will have a family member or friend diagnosed as terminally ill or in need of specialist care resulting from a painful debilitating condition.
I watched my own father's painful, protracted struggle with leukaemia and the terrible physical and emotional toll it took on my mother who subsequently suffered a stroke and needed lengthy care until her own death.
If I draw any consolation from such an experience, it is the knowledge that both my parents received some of the best professional palliative care any health service can provide.
In Malawi, however, such care is at best in its infancy and at worst non-existent in some places. It was to see for myself the determined efforts to move forward the provision of palliative care that brought me to this East African country with which Scotland has long had an affinity.
Aida Nagoli knows nothing about faraway Scotland. Since June this year, her world has been limited to how far her sisters or neighbours can carry her. In April, while four months pregnant, Aida began to suffer from back pains.