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.

Response to the global pandemic

We are keeping in close contact with our partners in northern Malawi, and are glad to report that (at the time of posting) they are not experiencing any pressure on their hospitals or communities as a result of Covid-19. The clinical students have returned to their home towns and are working in their clinics, following the temporary closure of their colleges. We understand that, so far, there are not many reported cases of the virus in the country, but a big unknown is to what extent the many people returning from the lockdown in South Africa will effect the infection rates.

As part of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership, we are keeping abreast of events and seeking too understand the needs on the ground in Malawi.

There will be no Focus on Malawi clinical visit from the UK this year, and our joint plans to encourage wider communication and co-operation amongst eye-care practitioners and hospitals in the north have been postponed.

In this holding situation regarding eye work, we are looking to understand how we might be of assistance to our partner hospitals in their immediate needs to deal with the pandemic if it hits their areas. We are discussing with them and other well-wishers now how we could participate in sponsoring the local production of face coverings and scrubs, and to help finance the improvement of clean water supplies.

Thank you for your interest in, prayers for, and support for the Trust and our partners in Malawi. At this time, we want them to know they are not alone in facing this unprecedented challenge.

More supplies start their journey to Malawi

parcels for Malawi eye clinics

We’ve just despatched another 16 parcels for stowing in the next freight container shipment for Malawi. Inside are glasses (carefully measured and labelled by volunteers at our Goggle Works parties or at home), lens meters (focimeters) for measuring glasses at the mission hospital clinics, and trays for indexed storage of glasses. The parcels will be loaded into the next container being sent to Malawi by the Bananabox Trust, expected to leave their base at Dundee in April 2020. Thanks to everyone who has worked on this and to those who have donated funds which pay for the transport!