Community eye health screening programme launched at Livingstonia

A new, comprehensive programme to promote eye health care in the community has been launched at The David Gordon Memorial Hospital (DGMH), Livingstonia. The programme involves re-opening the eye clinic at the hospital (closed in 2019 following the death of the clinician), and the provision of eye health screening in remote clinics and schools falling within the DGMH catchment area.

The first part of the plan included the appointment of an optometrist at the eye clinic at DGMH – who is Ms Tabu Chisi. And since June 2021, Ms Chisi has been delivering a comprehensive training programme for community screening, to include healthcare staff and patient attendants, as well as schoolteachers and local community leaders.

Training primary healthcare and patient assistant staff to screen for eye health at David Gordon Memorial Hospital, Livingstonia

The first batch of trainees – community healthcare workers and patient attendants – hard at work at DGMH.

Training for healthcare and patient attendant staff to screen for eye health at David Gordon Memorial Hospital, Livingstonia

Now they’re ready to serve the people in their catchment area!

Entrance to eye clinic at David Gordon Memorial Hospital, Livingstonia, Malawi

Banners at the entrance to the eye clinic at Livingstonia announce to local people that help with their sight problems is available within.

The Raven Trust was approached early in 2021 by DGMH’s hospital management with an outline plan for this programme, with a request to fund its early stages. Following evaluation and discussion, we were very happy to play a part in this well-considered project. The request also happened to coincide with an unexpected and very generous donation to the Trust. This enabled things to move ahead while being able to maintain our commitment to funding staff training at the other mission hospitals. We thank God for his perfect timing!

The programme at Livingstonia is the kind of development in community eye healthcare that The Raven Trust has been working ultimately to see established at the mission hospitals, and we feel very excited now to witness this happening – especially as it has been initiated, devised and implemented by local management and staff.

Shipping news

We report the successful arrival in Ekwendeni in May (2021) of a 40ft container which departed The Bananabox Trust’s depot at Dundee back in March this year. Focus on Malawi items in this delivery included measured glasses and optical equipment destined for Ekwendeni and Embangweni mission hospitals, as well as for Mzimba and Rumphi government hospitals.

The latest container from UK arrives in Ekwendeni, May 2021

The latest container arrival at Ekwendeni Mission Hospital contains essential equipment for hospitals, schools and churches in the region.

We’re also very pleased to report another full container departure from Dundee last month (June 2021), with 27 of our boxes. We sent, in addition to the usual glasses supplies, batches of vision testing materials for the newly-reopened clinic at Livingstonia mission hospital, and its new community eye-health screening programme (see separate post). Grateful thanks again to The Bananabox Trust in Dundee and all our good friends in the UK and Malawi who make these shipments, over many thousands of miles, secure and successful.

Hard-working volunteers of The Bananbox Trust packing a 40ft container at the Trust’s depot in Dundee during June 2021.

Congratulations!

In this post we celebrate some recent exam-passing by the students whose courses The Raven Trust sponsors.

Phinious Chavula and Misheck Kumwenda passed their end-of-year optometry technician exams at the Malawi College of Health Sciences, and their courses continue.

Mirriam Nyirenda has successfully passed through to the final semester of her clinical officer in ophthalmology course at the Malawi College of Health Sciences.

We know it’s been a particularly trying time for all of them with college disruptions and closures, and of course the effects of the pandemic, but they have been very patient and very determined. Well done everyone!

Misheck Kumwenda, Mirriam Nyirenda and Phinious Chavula.

Into 2021…

While we’ve not made any clinical visits in the past year, we do hear regularly how the students and clinicians we support and mentor are coping with studies, work and everyday life during the pandemic.

January 2021: all quiet at Malawi’s College of Health Sciences, Lilongwe Campus.

The students recommenced their courses in September 2020, but a new wave of Covid-19 infections caused the College of Health Sciences in Lilongwe to cease lectures again in January 2021. This was the latest interruption to their courses, which began with a teachers’ strike in 2018-19. But we have just heard the good news that students are being called back this month (February 2021). 

Supplies of glasses and clinical equipment, sent via our friends at The Bananabox Trust, arrived in October 2020 and have been successfully distributed to the clinics.

A lens meter is added to the equipment at Embangweni Mission Hospital.

A lens meter and glasses arrive at Ekwendeni Mission Hospital (left), and an elderly patient arrives for an eye test (right).

Equipment delivered to Mzimba government hospital with the help of staff at Embangweni Mission Hospital.

We’ve just published our February 2021 ‘Newslink’ email newsletter, which gives a more detailed round-up of the last six months’ activity. You can view it here. And you would be very welcome to sign up to receive it regularly.

Facing the pandemic

In the face of the current pandemic, we’re supporting our mission hospital partners in their urgent need to keep staff and patients safe from infection. High on the urgent list is the need for PPE, soap, and improved water supply.

Responding to requests from the hospitals, The Raven Trust – along with Alba Aid, Smileawi, The Bananabox Trust – are providing funds towards the costs of making face-masks locally, and the purchase of soap supplies.

This is being made possible through The Bananabox Trust, whose associates in Malawi have commissioned local tailors to get producing face masks on a large scale, using materials purchased locally.

As at the beginning of August – and only a month after the project was hatched – an amazing 4,000 masks had been made and distributed, and as many bars of soap, at Ekwendeni Hospital and the surrounding villages, with distribution now extending to Livingstonia.

Scenes at Ekwendeni.

Scenes at David Gordon Memorial Hospital, Livingstonia

Face masks are also being made at Embangweni. We intend to sponsor further production for all three locations, and are also considering extending this project to the local production of scrubs for clinical staff.

Also at Embangweni, management have let us know about their wishes to improve the water supply to the hospital. This has been planned for some time, but is now urgent with the need for extra hygiene precautions for all staff, patients and visitors.

Current hand-washing facilities at Embangweni.

Together with John Challis (now officially retired from The Raven Trust!!), who is familiar with the existing supply system, we are looking to see how we can support the development of a reliable scheme, and then contribute funding towards construction, to start as soon as possible.