The 500 miles Prosthetic and Orthotic Centre is in the grounds of Mzuzu Central Hospital (MCH), the main tertiary care hospital for northern region. As in Lilongwe, 500 miles runs this facility for the Malawi Ministry of Health (MoH) as part of the government health service. 500 miles has responsibility for management and funding but the qualified Malawian staff are employed by MoH.
All of the buildings at Mzuzu Central Hospital are uniform and so our premises, which consist of a 250 sqm modern clinic and workshop and a 100sqm hostel to accommodate travelling patients, had to be constructed using a traditional Malawian building method and local labour. The layout of the buildings was designed by Andreas Huck of Sophies Minde Ortopedi. The Centre was constructed during 2012 using a Malawian professional team led by Michael Lwanda and his firm, Design Studio Architects (www.dsamw.com) who were architects and project managers, and a Malawian contractor, Western Construction Company Limited. The Maitri Trust funded the buildings and we are extremely grateful to it.
Our current expat manager is Samuel Walker, a physiotherapist from Nottingham. Sam not only coordinated the opening of the facility at the end of November 2012 but also oversaw the final stages of the construction project for 500 miles and managed the handover of the buildings from the construction team. You can read Sam’s profile and reflections after 17 months in Malawi here →
The Malawian qualified staff, who are employed by MoH, are Dumisani Ngulube, an experienced prosthetist/orthotist and Tiwonge Kaponda (in red) and Elvas Singini (in pink) who both first worked with us as assistants in Lilongwe. Both Dumisani and Tiwonge qualified from TATCOT in the summer of 2012, Dumisani with an accelerated 3-year degree due to his previous qualification, and Tiwonge with a 3-year diploma. Elvas qualified from TATCOT with a 3-year diploma and joined the staff in August 2013. All three were sponsored by 500 miles. We also support a Malawian assistant to work at the Centre, Eviness Nkumba (in green).
Our patients and outreach programme
From the beginning we’ve attracted a steady flow of patients. Some have been referred from MCH and some have “walked in” including our first patient, Susan Banda, whose story you can read under Patient stories. However, due to the different and more challenging demographics of northern region (compared with central region), we are focusing on developing our outreach programme quickly to ensure that people all over the north who need our service are aware of it and are able to access it. To that end we have embarked on a comprehensive, systematic, district by district, zone by zone, community by community sensitisation and screening programme, starting in the north of Mzimba District. We are also developing our client base through collaborating with a number of partners locally and in our outreach work including MCH itself, some of the District Hospitals and also:
- Malawi Government agencies – MAP and MACOHA (funded by Christian Blind Mission).
- Beit Cure International Hospital, a private hospital in Blantyre, which runs charitable children’s clinics in northern region with MACOHA.
- Pastor Steven Chisale who carried out our initial needs analysis and who is the key man in arranging and delivering our region-wide sensitisation programme.
- Links International (linksinternational.org.uk) which works with strategic partners in developing countries – both churches and local NGOs – to inspire, empower, train and resource people and their communities to break free from poverty and disease.
- Luke International (lukeinternational.no), a Norwegian registered NGO with health, capacity building and community programmes in Malawi.
- St John of God Hospitaller Services (www.sjog.mw), a UK charity with an Order in Malawi which provides health and social care to sick, vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
- Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Synod of Livingstonia (www.ccapsolinia.org) which manages the Deaf Act Project, aiming to improve academic performance and independence of people in northern Malawi with special needs.
- The Education Department of the Mzuzu Diocese.
- RIPPLE Africa (www.rippleafrica.org), another UK-based charity which is involved with education, healthcare, and environmental projects in Malawi, Africa.
- Temwa (www.temwa.org) which is a UK-based organisation that raises funds to implement community-based projects in Malawi with one of its key areas being health education.
Our long-term aim
As with our project in Lilongwe, our aim is to build the capacity and the economic and practical efficiency of this Centre to the optimum level and to train and develop the Malawian staff – and then to hand over responsibility for managing, running and funding the Centre to MoH through MCH. 500 miles will then continue to support the Centre by providing it with the income it needs in order to be self-sufficient by funding and subsidising the purchase of devices for those who cannot afford to buy them.