Communities in Chapananga, Chikhwawa, risk dying of preventable diseases due to lack of healthcare workers in some clinics in the southern Malawi district.
Chang’ambika and Chithumba health centres, which are close to the Mozambique border, are some of the facilities without nurses and medical assistants.
Speaking in an interview when journalists visited the area on Tuesday, Chang’ambika residents said patients have to walk for over two hours to Gaga and Mgona health centres because a health surveillance assistant at their facility only handles under-five children and those seeking HIV testing and counselling.
Said Village Head Chang’ambika: “It is about six years since we had a permanent medical assistant and nurses. Relief workers come and go. Patients, especially pregnant women, are dying of complications that were treatable before the hospital was shut down.”
He said health workers shun the area because there is no electricity, staff houses, markets and good roads, among others.
A medical assistant at Gaga, Khwatcha Kabwera-Banda, said the lack of staff at some health centres is exerting pressure on them as they have to serve a catchment area that has 55 000 people, including 8 000 from Chang’ambika .
“The absence of medical officers is exerting extra pressure on the resources of neighbouring centres which do not even have enough health workers. We hardly bathe or get enough sleep because we have to attend to patients day and night,” he said.
To reverse the trend, Medicins sans Frontieres has offered scholarships to students from affected communities on a bond that they will serve the understaffed centres. The doctors without borders hope the recruits will stay longer because they belong there and are accustomed to the situation urban graduates detest.