A letter from Barbara Nagy in Malawi
January 12, 2009
Malawi has entered “hunger season,” the time of the year when most people have run out of food and are either chronically hungry or truly starving. At Nkhoma we have been helped by last year’s gifts from the Nickle-a-Meal program, which provided fertilizer to families supporting orphans and emergency food relief to malnourished children, pregnant women, HIV and TB patients and others in extreme need. This has been a tremendous benefit to the many patients this program has served. As a pediatrician, I am always on a soap box about measuring weights of all kids, and we find the vast majority of them are suffering from acute and/or chronic malnutrition. I tell our staff that we are treating the next generation of Malawians and that the care we give will be reflected in the status of the population 20 years from now. Malnutrition is so pervasive here it is often overlooked, but it impacts just about every area of life: education, life expectancy (especially maternal and child survival), availability of trained personnel in every area, especially healthcare. And the list could go on much further. For those interested in general development issues try researching “Malawi” and “Millennium Development Goals” on the Internet to understand more of what basic areas are being targeted.
We have also started to experience cholera, which has stressed hospital resources to the breaking point, as Malawi’s government often doesn’t have the resources to respond with things like IV fluids, latex gloves, cleaning supplies. Our most precious resource is nursing staff, which is habitually asked to do far more than is humanly possible. Our pediatrics ward, swollen with malaria cases, had 136 patients last Friday, many critically ill, and a nursing staff of two. I honestly don’t know how they manage, and many vital things are left completely undone, yet it is gratifying to see the numbers of patients who not only get well but feel they have received excellent, Christian care. We are blessed that half of our pediatrics ward recently underwent extensive renovations so we are now able to plug in machines like nebulizers (for asthma), oxygen saturation machines and oxygen concentrators. The renovations enable us to wash our hands much more easily, and there is a bit more space for the patients. Still, we have only about 40 beds, which makes it more challenging to provide care for the large numbers that come. We often (daily!) consider expanding the pediatrics ward, but are always drawn to the prevention side of the problem: how to keep so many kids from falling ill. We had high hopes for funding a community spraying project for our area to reduce malaria-bearing mosquitoes, but the funding didn’t come through. Emphasis on basic vaccinations, nutrition, insecticide-treated bednets, family planning and HIV/AIDS work are ongoing.
The new primary school is proceeding slowly but well, and the first two preschool classes have been in session for a week. They hope to occupy their wonderful new building by the end of this month. It is so cute to see my little daughter, Happiness, who is in the 3-year-old class, lining up her stuffed animals and admonishing them to “speak English!” (Our Malawian parents were surprisingly emphatic in their recommendation that classes be taught in English.) Excitement about the new school among our staff and local families is extremely high, yet we need to establish a scholarship program because even the modest tuition of about 80 dollars a term is beyond the means of many.
Many and sincere thanks to all who are supporting us. Your help makes a tremendous difference to people here in Malawi and to our family!
Barbara, Melia, Anna and Happy Nagy
The 2009 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 44