Can you help: Meet the team committed to Malawi’s maternal health

11 Jun 2019
Dr Ibe Iwuh.JPG

Earlier this year, Scotland Malawi Partnership’s Deputy Chief Executive Stuart Brown visited obstetrician-gynaecologist, Dr Ibe Iwuh, together with his team of doctors and midwives working in Area 25’s health centre. Here are his reflections.

Located in the Northern zones of Lilongwe district and with a catchment of 350,000 people, Dr Ibe and his inspirational yet self-effacing team of health workers are passionate about the state health centre’s maternal and neonatal health provision. In one day alone, they see up to 100 patients a day, 20% of whom have high risk pregnancies.

They have already started performing C-sections and other ops in four state-of-the-art Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital operating theatres where I was privileged to have a tour earlier this year.

It was Scottish-based midwife Rachel MacLeod who introduced me to Dr Ibe last year, bringing him to Scotland to collaborate with Ninewells in Dundee, Perth Royal Infirmary and the Health Forum of the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP).

Rachel had been a mentor to Ibe is now working alongside him in Area 25. Dr Ibe’s colleague, Obs & Gynae consultant Claire, will see 25 acute cases in a day and Ibe’s boss Jeff also share in 24 hour on-call shifts. He is, as Ibe put it, “willing to and able to do anything to help.”

As well as the volume of patients Ibe sees in a day, a video he played to the SMP’s Health Forum showing its beautiful garden stood out in my memory. 

The garden provides fresh vegetables and much needed iron to counter anaemia in ante-natal and post-delivery diets. The centre has its own chicken farm and the operating theatres run on solar power with generators on standby. 

Expectant mothers who live at great distances come to the health centre some weeks ahead of their due date to be resident close to vital medical expertise and to receive antenatal education. 

Ibe explains that, thanks to Baylor College’s and Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) support, all the services are provided free but that - with sustainability in mind - local citizens will have the opportunity to give what they can and in different ways such as scrubbing facilities clean and rubbish collection. Donations in kind, such as hospital consumables also go a long way. It’s an investment of $1.6m from Baylor TCH with plans to build more surgical and ward facilities in what is a strikingly holistic, one-stop-maternal-state provision in Area 25.  There, Ibe and colleagues are determined to offer the best care possible.

Dr Ibe works with around 40 nurses and midwives and two other obstetrician-gynaecologist doctors. They really need two more volunteer senior registrar level obs-gynae doctors to meet the demand of approximately 24 baby deliveries in the space of 16 hours, and need three more volunteer anaesthetists. 

Any senior registrars interested in six+ weeks work in Malawi, we’d love to put you in touch with Ibe. Contact Stuart Brown if you would like to find out more.