Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thank you for the Payphones

By Martha Fatsani Sande

In an effort to help chronically ill people in his village, Harrison Ndelemani volunteered to give the sick financial and medical support. With support from other well wishing villagers Ndelemani formed Chikomwe Home Based Care (HBC) group. Apart from helping the patients with necessities like food, soap and medicine, the group also provides transport for patients to go to hospital. However, with lack of training in HBC coupled with inadequate resources, life was a nightmare for the group as they could not help many patients.

“Our main challenge was lack of training; we could not care for the patients effectively. We also found it hard to communicate with the nearest hospitals to call for an ambulance when faced with serious cases which needed immediate physician attention,” Ndelemani said.

It is against this background that The Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) introduced an Information Communication (ICT) programme to train volunteers in HBC and link them with hospital officials.

According to the organization’s ICT Manager Kumbukani Kuntiya, the project which is in its pilot phase, explores the use of ICT in contributing to the quality service that health care workers and volunteers provide for people living with HIV infection and AIDS in Malawi.

“We believe that better equipping the community volunteers with mobile communication enables them for greater access to support and greater capacity to improve and increase their role in the provision of community care and support for HIV positive people and those with chronic illnesses being nursed in the community,” said Kuntiya.

He also said increased communication between volunteers, health care units and hospitals may ease patient access to appropriate levels of care with reduced time, costs and travel.

With funding from Tearfund, EAM purchased payphones from Zain Malawi Limited formerly known as Celtel and distributed to eight HBC groups around Nkope Health Centre and St. Martin’s Hospital in Mangochi district. The groups use the payphones for income generating activities to support the patients and also to communicate with the two health facilities for medical support as well as calling for an ambulance when they face emergencies.

“In the past it was hard to raise money to assist the patients with some painkillers and other basics like food and soap. However with this project, we are able to support them with the money generated from the payphone business. We are also able to call for an ambulance from the hospital when need be and care for them appropriately. We thank EAM for the support,”
said Ndelemani with a smile on his face.

The project is being implemented with funding from Tear fund UK and will run for 10 months until October 2008.

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