Volunteering at the Lifuwu Health Clinic
The Lifuwu Health Clinic offers basic health services to almost 16,000 people in the eight villages which fall under its supervision. It is the first level of government health services available to the people. From treating common diseases such as malaria, to providing HIV testing, to assisting women through all stages of pregnancy in the maternity ward, the Clinic offers these basic health services for free but is often constrained by the limited availability of supplies. Each month the Clinic hosts an Outreach Program at each village focusing on the well-being of children 5 years and under by tracking malnutrition, providing vaccinations, and providing a supplementary feeding program when supplies are available.
We are lucky to have a doctor from Austria currently volunteering with us and she has been kind enough to share her impressions from her time spent at the Lifuwu Clinic.
“I was asked to write down my experience at the clinic and the outreach project. Up to now I’ve been in Malawi for three weeks. Because of my profession, I’m a Pediatrician in Austria with a lot of medical knowledge, I was mainly interested in working at the clinic.
To come straight to the point, for working as a volunteer at the clinic, you don`t need any medical expertise. I can help with the Malaria-testing and with the registration of supplies. The last few days I had to count the correct amount of tablets and divide them into small plastic bags after writing the dose and how to take it. This is necessary because they don`t get the medication in the same way as we do in our country. We get medication in small boxes individually packaged. At this clinic they get 500 or 1000 tablets in one large plastic box. So the staff has to count the tablets for each patient.
The whole team is friendly and I`m getting all of my questions answered. It is very interesting to know more about the health system in Malawi and how the “first step” of this system works. They show you what you want to see and allow you to take pictures. If you are lucky, you might get to see a delivery in maternity ward as well. And, it`s nice to see that help2kids has left marks at the clinic, for example, paintings on the walls and new mattresses at the maternity ward.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays we drive to different villages to the so called “under five clinic.” Mothers and their less than five year old children are invited to come. The women start singing educative songs. Each song approaches a medical issue like family planning, prevention of HIV or malaria. Afterwards they get a short lecture about a certain health issue from a health worker. After this the kids will be weighed and it is my job to write the weight into the certificate of health of the kid. Afterwards the children get their vaccinations if necessary. In my opinion this is a very important project, because it is a way to prevent illness. Now they want to establish a drama group so that they can communicate health issues to a larger audience in common places.
I’ve enjoyed my stay at Malawi although the help2kidsproject at the clinic is not a medical challenge for me. But, you can always put your personality into a certain situation. Greeting the patients, giving them a smile or speaking a few words to the kids while you are giving the tablets is always a good thing. It shows that the patients are humans not numbers.
I will stay here for a further four weeks. I look forward to the new tasks waiting for me.
Volunteering and practicing medicine in Malawi as a medical professional can be difficult due to language barriers, the lengthy registration process with the Medical Council of Malawi and limits on short term volunteering; however, the general assistance, administrative help, and educational activities are all beneficial to the Clinic and the community. The experience and knowledge transfer can be invaluable, especially for medical professionals interested in rural health care and infectious diseases not commonly found back home. If you are interested in volunteering at the Lifuwu Health Clinic, more information can be found here.