The stabbing effects of the economic recovery efforts government is implementing are not just being felt in households where consumers now have less disposable income following the devaluation of the kwacha and its subsequent floatation which have triggered high cost of living.
The piercing has gone so far as to tamper with delivery of social services such as health care. For instance, some health facilities, including central hospitals, have seen their budgets for drugs, fuel, food and other allocations lose value due to the devaluation and floatation of the kwacha. This has somewhat put at risk lives of patients in the hospitals.
Bridget Mwembe, 41, is a tuberculosis (TB) patient admitted to Mchinji District Hospital. Last week, she spent almost four days without receiving any food from the hospital despite being on full medication.
“I came to this hospital without a guardian because I lost almost all my relatives. I stay with my grandparent who cannot manage to bring me food,” says Mwembe.
She was an only child in her family and has now spent over a month in the hospital without anybody from her Mkanda village visiting her.
With limited availability of food at the hospital due to sporadic food supplies from suppliers who complain of not being paid on time. Mwembe’s resorted to begging food delivered from other patients.
“When time for lunch or supper comes, I ask my fellow patients, who get food from their homes, to share it with me. I just eat whatever they give me. If they don’t receive any food and the hospitals fails to give us meals, I go hungry,” says Mwembe, who awaits to be discharged after several weeks.
But recently, Mwembe and 90 other patients at the hospital got some relief from Bunda College Students Charity Club which donated foodstuffs and groceries to the hospital although the quantities could not take the patients beyond two weeks.
Apart from maize flour and some food items, the students donated packets of sugar, soap, salt and other basic amenities. They also donated clothes.
“I feel greatly relieved to receive these things from the students. We are struggling to survive here because we do not have adequate food.
“Some few days ago, we just got porridge and beans for lunch or supper,” says another TB patient Doreen Bwalawayo, from Kilima Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Mlonyeni in the district.
Bwalawayo has been in the hospital for over four weeks.
Mchinji district health promotion officer Damiano Semu says the hospital has been having problems with providing food to patients because rising costs of food supplies has exhausted its annual food budget.
“Currently, our budget is not adequate to meet all our needs. We are not able to pay our debts. We hope government will give us more money to help normalise the situation,” says Semu.
However, he says the hospital strives to provide food to the patients almost every day.
“The items from Bunda College students are a big relief to our patients. We believe the supplies will see the patients through a few days. Currently, we are discussing with authorities at central level to address this problem,” says Semu.
Bunda Students Charity Club incoming president Richard Malimba says they raised over K300 000 (about $769) cash and goods from well wishing students and lecturers at the college.
He says they conducted a mock wedding, circulated pledge forms and carried out piecework in lecturers’ gardens to raise the money, adding that over 400 students contributed towards the cause.
“This hospital is very close to Lilongwe and when we heard about the problems that people are experiencing here, we felt compelled to do something. We believe as students, we can serve our communities in many ways,” says Malimba.
The club’s outgoing president Hendrix Nkhata says Mchinji District Hospital is the third health facility to receive the students’ support. Other recipients in the past two years are Nkhoma Mission Hospital and Ntchisi District Hospital.
“Right now, we are making efforts to partner with several organisations so that we can increase our capacity to reach out to more underprivileged people in our society.
“Apart from supporting hospitals, we also mobilise students to donate blood to Malawi Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) and provide free agricultural advice to people around Bunda College. We believe responsible university students can bring about positive change in society,” says Nkhata.
With the proliferation of colleges and universities in the country, Bunda Student Charity Club’s efforts underscore the need for students to practise and embrace philanthropy.