January 2017 Update to Malawi Medical Life Center
In April 2016, we launched our Malawi Medical Life Center, which is a partnership between Victory Christian Temple— the Malawi ministry that is overseen by The Brooklyn Tabernacle— and the non-profit World Compassion Fellowship (WCF), which also works closely with The Brooklyn Tabernacle. The Life Center has local medical staff, including a medical director, a midwife, a part-time OB/GYN clinician and a registered nurse as part of our medical team, in addition to administrative staff. The Life Center has seen more than 700 patients to date with conditions that include malaria, upper respiratory conditions, women's health issues, eye/vision issues, and diarrheal diseases. In the past few months, the WCF oversight team has spent time with our Malawi staff partners, going over both the clinical and operations plans. In addition, we are using tools such as Whatsapp and Google Docs to facilitate collaboration between our American-based medical volunteers and our Malawi staff. Working closely together is an important part of our ongoing success. This has not been without its challenges—both culturally and technically; but, by God's grace, we are making it work.
Figure: Malawi Life Center Staff with BT/WCF volunteers
One of the main motivations of starting this Life Center was to provide adequate healthcare for the poorest of the poor. This is a challenge throughout Malawi, as the vast majority of the population does not have access to affordable or available healthcare. As such, the Life Center has a sliding scale fee structure to make sure that no one is turned away from receiving good care simply because they cannot afford it. Pharmacy costs are typically out of reach for most poor patients who are struggling just to put nsima (corn meal) on their table. While running our free mobile clinics in various Malawi locations, we found countless numbers of patients who either had never seen a physician or had been given prescriptions for medicines, but had never gotten them filled because of the cost. Also, many times, government centers would run out of stock quickly. We have endeavored to keep the Life Center well-stocked and affordable, especially as it concerns medicines for life-threatening conditions (e.g., anti-malarials). Again, it is an ongoing challenge to find a balance between trying to service everyone and planning for the Life Center to become self-sufficient.
In addition to providing primary care, the Life Center has become a place where our medical team provides healthcare instruction in areas such as nutrition and wound care for the nearby communities. Our mobile medical teams have provided this community service since 2007. This past year, for the first time, our volunteer medical team also provided a Continuing Medical Education seminar for local medical professionals in the city. We plan to continue both of these services as part of our multi-pronged effort to bless the city.
Figure: Healthcare Teaching in Village
Our next major project will be to implement a Cervical Cancer Screen/Treat Program for 2017 in the Mzuzu area. Cervical cancer is called the "Silent Killer" in Malawi, because the vast majority of the population never gets screened; and once they start to have symptoms and go to a health clinic, it is often too late. According to the Pan African Journal, 3,684 women are diagnosed annually in Malawi; and 2,314 die from the disease. There are several aspects here that are tragic. Cervical cancer is a relatively easy cancer to screen and treat if it is caught early enough, but few women get screened due to ignorance and the lack of services. Another tragedy is that the women who are affected are, for the most part, mothers with multiple children; these youngsters then lose their mothers, and their whole social safety net crashes along with their loss. Women are the backbone of the family, working hard both in the fields and caring for the daily needs of their respective families. There is no welfare program, no Medicaid, no life insurance and no social services to fall back on for the children that lose their mothers in these impoverished communities. Typically, these children are then scattered among other families, who may already have other orphans to care for. God willing, we will do our part to help end this tragic situation.
Figure: Pastor Rosemary and Village Moms
Lastly, the Life Center is located adjacent to Victory Christian Temple, where patients can also be prayed for and hear the Word of God. We are both physical and spiritual beings, and sometimes our spiritual person can be sicker than our physical person.
We are thankful for those of you who are continuing to help us achieve this vision — especially our volunteer medical team. Please continue to pray for the Life Center!
For more detailed information, please visit the World Compassion Fellowship website (wcfellowship.com) and the various projects and blog posts written there.