The Malawi health sector requires 340 ambulances to meet international standards which recommend one ambulance for every 50 000 people, it has been learnt.
Speaking in Lilongwe on Monday after a donation of 60 ambulances from donors, Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume said his ministry has only 116 ambulances against a population of about 17 million.
The ambulances were donated by United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) through the Global Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH) Trust Fund. They are Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles.
The minister thanked Unicef for the donation, but urged other stakeholders to help add to the fleet so as to achieve the global requirement amid Malawi’s rising population.
Kumpalume added that the Malawi situation is compounded by its few referral hospitals.
He said: “In such situations, a reliable ambulance is critical to providing emergency and life-saving care. With the arrival of the new ambulances, the country will have 176 functional ambulances.
“Although this is still short of the required 340, it represents a significant improvement and will alleviate delays in reaching referral health facilities.”
Chief of planning at Unicef, Christopher Davids, while hailing the country for achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number four ahead of schedule, urged the country not to be complacent.
He said: “As Unicef, we would have loved for the ambulances to go to districts with the highest maternal mortality rates in a bid to help push down the national average which remains one of the highest in the world.”
From the donation, Lilongwe and Blantyre district health offices (DHOs) have received a lion’s share with each of the two getting nine ambulances followed by Dowa DHO with six.
On the other hand, Kasungu, Zomba, Dedza, Thyolo, Mangochi and Mulanje have received four each while Mzimba South, Mzimba North, Ntcheu and Mchinji DHOs have received three ambulances each.