While others practise nursing and midwifery just to earn a living, the story is different for 60-year-old midwife, Charity Salima who comes from Lichale Village, T/A Mankhambira in NkhataBay.
After retiring as nurse and midwife in the civil service, Salima went on to establish Achikondi Women’s Clinic in Lilongwe’s populous Area 23 Township to provide quality health care services for women in that community and surrounding areas.
In any given month, Achikondi Women’s Clinic delivers, for free, atleast 60 babies and attends to 1 500 patients.
Through the clinic established in 2008, Salima, a mother of three, has delivered 8 000 babies with no recorded deaths, contributing to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.2 which aims at ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age.
As part of the efforts to achieve the SDGs, all countries, including Malawi, are aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to as low as 12 per 1 000 live births.
Among the children delivered from the community, Charity Mphsyinja (named after Charity Salima) who was born on March 25, 2000 was the first to be delivered.
Hers was a home-birth and it is what gave Salima determination to support the women and give them quality medical care within the community.
And in her thoughts, a community clinic was ideal. “With no money in my hands but determination and the will to make a difference in the lives of women in this community, I started to slowly gather items necessary to set up a clinic. We began with meager resources at a rented place, but here we are today at our own building,” said Salima.
Fortune smiled upon her as she got assistance to build her clinic from the Norwegian nurses’ organisation and friend Linda Mcdonalds of Scotland due to her service to the community.
Her will to make a difference recently earned her recognition by the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, who honoured her with the Commonwealth Points of Light Award.
The Commonwealth Points of Light Award celebrates inspirational acts of volunteering across the Commonwealth, and helps to inspire others to tackle some of the social challenges within their communities.
Her reaction to the recognition was that of delight: “I am pleased and very thankful to Her Majesty the Queen for this award. This is my calling to serve women and children in Area 23 and beyond, and I will continue with this work because it is my contribution in reducing maternal and neonatal deaths and encouraging community participation in reproductive health.”
On his part, the acting British High Commissioner, Gary Leslie who handed over the award on behalf of the Queen noted that maternal and newborn health remains a big challenge.
“Maternal and newborn health is still a big challenge in the country and in some parts of the Commonwealth due to the slow pace of scaling up community based care and human resources shortages. I hope Charity’s life of service and this award helps inspire others to make their own contribution to tackling some of the greatest social challenges of our time,” he said.
Commending Salima’s efforts, project coordinator for National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (Nonm), Harriet Chiomba noted that the retired nurse and midwife’s work is contributing to the country’s efforts in reducing the number of women and babies dying in child birth.
“When you look at the number of children delivered at Achikondi Women’s Clinic without a single death recorded, you can see that Salima is contributing to the reduction of maternal mortality rates. With no maternal death reported from this clinic, it shows that she is doing a good job,” she says.
Chiomba considers Salima as someone who has passion for her work, stressing that her service comes from the heart.
“If it was only a job where someone is expecting a pay at the end of the month, I think we could have had so many maternal and even neonatal deaths at the clinic. But because it is a passion and comes from the heart, it makes a difference. If all nurses and midwives were committed in the same way, things would be better,” she said.