|Jane Arnold, Shelley Earp, Jo Anne Earp and me|
Malawi is about the size of Pennsylvania and has roughly15 million people, 260,000 of them living in the capital, Lilongwe. It is ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world and HIV/AIDS has taken its toll on the population.
The first thing we did in the city was venture out to the market which is almost hidden behind the buildings on the street. There you can buy everything from vegetables and chickens to car parts and colorful chitenge cloth which most women wear over their skirts and on their heads.
|Live chickens for sale|
The exchange rate is around 170 Malawian Kwacha to one dollar - so the math - at least for me - was not easy. Jane got a Fanta in a small cafe that cost 200 kwacha. That was the restaurant price - it would probably be closer to 50 kwacha in the Shop Rite store.
That first night we had drinks at Heuglin's Lodge, a lovely guest house where we stayed, before heading off to a traditional dinner at the home of Mina Hosseinipour, Clinical Director for the UNC Project in Malawi. No pictures of the food but we had the staple maize porridge (called nsima), fish, beans, creamed spinach and meat.
UNC Project Leadershship (L-R): Dr. Francis Martinson, Country Director, Dr. Mina Hosseinipour, Clinical Director, Innocent Molofo, Administrative Manager and Arthur Sungitsa, Finance Manager
The singing reinforced the health education messages about the importance of family planning, spacing children and of getting tested for HIV along with one's partner. All the women in the audience had babies with them who would immunized that day. Women who had not been HIV tested, could be tested as well - and those who brought their partners with them for testing were able to jump the cue and be seen first. Getting tested is a vital componant to the PMTCT program. Anti-retroviral drugs for those who are HIV positive are free and provided by the government.
After the education session was over we toured the Maternity Clinic.
Esmie Kamanga, Program Officer for PMTCT, Jane, a maternity nurse and one of the UNC Project field workers
They kept great monthly statistics on birth outcomes. They have on average 50 births a day and a low c-section rate of about 10%.
Then we headed out with the field workers to do a home visit for a child in the Malaria Vaccine Trial. The Trial is in phase III and being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. The drug comes from GlaxoSmithKline.
Jane read them a story book and they lit up!
We passed many things including a man selling a live chicken along the side of the road.
The next day we took off through the small town of Salima heading to the airport. Our driver caught some "chombo" (tilapia) in the lake and drove with them tied up outside his car (Jane and I were grateful they were outside!).
We also passed government workers making new lane divider lines on the road -- hand painting the lines.