With a crushing HIV/AIDS epidemic and high rates of infant and maternal mortality, Malawi is one of Africa’s poorest countries and health care is unaffordable for many. Furthermore, the mountainous terrain and poor roads, particularly in the poorest rural areas, make traveling to a clinic sometimes impossible.
Since 2007, Partners In Health in Malawi, known locally as Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo, has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Health in the rural district Neno to provide comprehensive care to an area of about 150,000 people.
When PIH began working in Neno, there was no district hospital, and its 10 health centers had fallen into disrepair.
In the years since, PIH has constructed Neno District Hospital and a community hospital, revitalized the 10 health centers, built another, and will soon complete construction of yet another. Key programs at these health centers include treatment and prevention for complex diseases such as HIV/AIDS tuberculosis, and drug-resistant tuberculosis, as well as initiatives to treat and prevent malaria and child malnutrition and reduce maternal mortality rates. In 2011, PIH opened a Nutritional Rehabilitation Unit to treat severely malnourished children—the first of its kind in the district.
In addition to infectious diseases, we launched a chronic care clinic in 2015 to address the growing problem of non-communicable diseases. Under this new model, patients have all their health concerns addressed in a single visit.
PIH complements its clinical services with outreach programs. We visit people in their communities and screen them for a wide array of diseases, helping us catch health problems early and refer patients to health centers for treatment. We also visit people in their homes. Village health workers check on the health needs of entire households and refer family members to clinics for care if needed.
PIH also provides financial support to its most vulnerable patients, as poverty is often the root cause of disease. The Program on Social and Economic Rights organizes job skills training and employment programs (including carpentry, tailoring, knitting, farming, and running a local restaurant) to help patients and their families lift themselves out of poverty. The program helps children attend school by paying for fees, uniforms, and supplies, and provides safe housing for patients in need.
Moving forward, PIH’s vision is for Neno to be a model for health care delivery, leading other districts in providing high-quality care. We are running conferences and trainings with health authorities from other districts to expand our approach across the country, allowing more people access to high-quality care.