01 Feb
  • By Isaac Msiska
  • Cause in

Healthcare at the margins

Refugees. Covid-19. Healthcare.

Those three words can be enough to send shreds of panic into someone who grew up or stays in a refugee camp. Refugee camps are a sorry sight – throngs of individuals, young and old, squeezed into a small area where sanitation is a disaster and ideal healthcare is almost close to non-existent.

Or at least that is the status quo in Malawi’s Dzaleka Refugee Camp. Healthcare for refugees and asylum seekers in the Camp, which currently is home to over 40 thousand people, is a nasty issue. The Camp is served by a small hospital which struggles to meet the growing demand of the refugees plus additional Malawians from communities around it. Dzaleka Health Centre has always experienced inadequate medication to cater to the large population that depends on it and the advent of COVID-19 pushed the small hospital to the edge.

It is the same reason that made the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Malawi to sound an SOS to its friends and partners to come to the rescue of the health centre in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country. The message was plain and simple, Dzaleka Refugee Camp needed a strong health system then more than ever. Dzaleka Health Centre needed a bailout. Urgently! There is Hope, through our partner the International Association for Refugees (IAFR) Canada and US in collaboration with Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) came through with a crucial donation. We donated $60,000 worth of essential medications to the clinic – which HPIC and IAFR secured on our behalf.

That was last year but the fight did not end there. We knew that Dzaleka Health Centre was in constant need of more drugs which required continuous support. So, we kept IAFR and HPIC on the hotline. As our Executive Director Innocent Magambi explained, we were in conversation with IAFR and HPIC to continue sustaining Dzaleka Health Centre’s need for medications. This year when what was termed as the second wave of COVID-19 swarmed the world, the two partners came to our aid again and this time with an even bigger consignment of drugs. In January, we received a second shipment of vital drugs valued at $96,000 (approximately 72 million Kwacha) meant for Dzaleka Health Centre. And just like the first consignment, the new donation arrived at an opportune moment. Doctor Kingsley Ojeikere is the Associate Public Health Officer for UNHCR Malawi and he agrees.

“This donation will help improve the services rendered by the Ministry of Health in Dzaleka Refugee Camp,” Doctor Ojeikere explained. And in these serious times when the war on COVID-19 has taken a formidable turn, the medical donation will contribute towards aiding Dzaleka Health Centre in serving patients of coronavirus. Henry Lali, the Clinical Officer in Charge at the health centre pointed out admitted that the small hospital is overstretched and struggling in delivering its health services amidst the pandemic and that the donation will assist in easing the challenge.

“There are some critical drugs in the donation that are specifically for covid-19 such as special antibiotics and this will really fill in the gap that we have lately been experiencing in serving our patients better.” Lali disclosed. But that is not the only challenge that the donation will play a part in addressing. The consignment also contains drugs that are beneficial to overall healthcare delivery. As Doctor Ojeikere observed;

“The donation is not specific for just covid-19, it is important for continuity of basic health services such as management of childhood illnesses, non-communicable disease management, antenatal delivery, postnatal care, and general health service delivery.”

Considering that Dzaleka Health Centre serves 65 per cent Malawians, the donation will have two-fold benefits – serve the residents of Dzaleka Refugee Camp while simultaneously reaching out to the majority Malawian population surrounding the Camp. As the world awaits the day when the battle against coronavirus is won and COVID-19 is declared dead and gone, There is Hope joins the fight on the battlefront. We are grateful to IAFR and HPIC. Their generous contribution to our COVID-19 response is covering the needs of a small but crucial hospital buried in the heart of a congested refugee camp in serving a population at the margins.

It is no secret that the world is living in the darkest age where the need for optimal healthcare to poor and side-lined communities cannot be overemphasized.