A letter from Barbara Nagy in Malawi
October 20, 2008
We have been back at Nkhoma for close to two months after visiting many of you this summer. Due to staffing changes at Nkhoma Hospital I am no longer primarily responsible for the pediatrics ward, although I am available to them for consultation on a daily basis. Instead, I am supervising care and teaching in the adult male and female wards.
Our first three patients on the female ward were surprising. All three were young women with malaria and life threatening anemia who required emergency blood transfusions. Since it is unusual for an adult to suffer from such a severe attack of malaria, we looked further for provocative factors. All were HIV negative, meaning they weren't sick because of AIDS. All, however, had babies less than three months of age, all had attended antenatal clinic and in each case iron was marked in the patients’ health passports as being “out of stock” for the duration of their antenatal visits. This simple medicine should be available to every pregnant woman free of charge, and its absence has a significant impact on maternal mortality.
If any of these young women had died, she would not have been counted as part of the astronomically high maternal mortality in Malawi, but surely her death would have been related to pregnancy. Her death would have resulted in the death of her young infant due to malnutrition a few weeks later, as infant formula is unobtainable for the vast majority of Malawians: two deaths preventable with a medicine that would cost less than one dollar for the duration of the woman's pregnancy.
Although at Nkhoma we have daily struggles to buy most basic medicines, we have prioritized buying medicines for antenatal mothers even if government sources falter. This is possible only because of the faithful support by the many people who gived medicines, and we send our sincere thanks for your support.
Now we hope that these young mothers recover completely from their anemia and are protected from malaria in every way possible, so that with their next pregnancies they may not come so close to losing their lives. The tools to accomplish this are very inexpensive and straightforward: iron tablets, insecticide-treated mosquito nets, malaria prophylaxis, family planning tools that enable a family to choose the timing of the next pregnancy, and often, supplementary food.
Many of you have followed the construction of the first building of the Ebenezer Education Institute, a primary school just beginning at Nkhoma. The first building is speeding to completion, and the first preschool class, now housed in an older building, will soon take up residence. It will be a great joy to hear rain beating down on that new roof! Already many staff members have benefited from the new school, and many more are eagerly anticipating having their children benefit. Organizers continue to put in place the “teaching of the teachers” aspect of the school that will mentor and equip volunteer nursery school teachers from all around the Nkhoma area, and scholarships are being planned as funds permit, to make the impact of the school on the children in our area as great as possible.
Today (Monday, October 20) was the first day of occupancy of the newly renovated male and female wards. Work is still progressing on the children's ward. It is wonderful to be able to access sinks and electrical outlets, have screens on the windows, be able to hang up bednets, and give patients access to oxygen concentrators without having to ship them to other wards or hospitals. For all this, we say thank you, because your involvement and support have meant a lot to these projects.
Blessings and peace as you enter the Advent season!
The 2008 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 23