Small regional hospital since the early 1900s
The village of Embangweni is located in the northwest of Malawi, about 4 hours by car from the capital Lilongwe. In the early 1900s, a missionary post was established here from South Africa. The missionaries also built a small hospital, which has since grown into the main medical facility in the region. The hospital has been supported over the past decades by churches in Ireland, Scotland, and the US, but until the arrival of MMWT in 2016, there has been little foreign attention to the hospital.
Lack of medical staff, poor infrastructure
In the past 10 years, there hasn’t been a doctor present at the Embangweni hospital, and care has been provided by a few clinical officers (specialized nurses). There has never really been money to invest in or maintain the buildings. Most of the buildings at Embangweni Hospital are old, dirty, and dilapidated. Some rooms have been standing for almost 100 years. Patients with severe wounds and infections lie under a leaking roof or in drafty conditions. Especially during the malaria season, it’s very challenging. During the ‘Mango season’, many children with fractures are admitted. They fall from trees while trying to pick ripe mangoes.
Significance for the region
Despite the lack of many things, Embangweni Mission Hospital is crucial. It’s the only place for medical care in the surrounding area. The nearest hospital is at least 60 km away, which might seem relatively close to us, but not for Malawians. They often lack money for transportation, meaning they have to travel long distances on foot. The hospital maintains 27 satellite clinics in the vicinity. These clinics serve as ‘first aid posts’ in rural areas. Nurses from the hospital visit these clinics every month, providing medication to local residents. All these satellite clinics are within a radius of about 55 km from Embangweni Hospital.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. Three-quarters of its roughly thirteen million people earn less than two dollars per day. More than half of the population is children because adults are dying massively due to hunger and poverty. Diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria continuously take their toll, reducing the average life expectancy of a Malawian to barely forty years.
In these dire circumstances, Embangweni Hospital strives to provide assistance. Since 2017, the Malawi Mission Work Team has been supporting this rural hospital in Malawi, 11 years after a similar project started at Nkhoma Hospital in 2006. The MMWT is pleased that Nkhoma Hospital has exceeded the average standards of Malawi. Moreover, Nkhoma currently has good management capable of maintaining its current position.