For the past 30 years, St John Scotland has supported our sister organisation, St John Malawi, to improve the lives of children and families in Malawi.
There is an urgent need for health services in Malawi: for every 1,000 children born, 42 will die before their first birthday, compared to only three in Scotland. In Scotland, one of every 5,800 women runs a lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth or after delivery. In Malawi, it is one of every 39.
In and around the capital, Blantyre, St John Malawi run an established mother and baby programme, which has saved lives and greatly improved the health of families in the area.
As well as our long-standing support for this project, in 2018 we were granted funding from the Scottish Government to support a new project based around the Lilongwe area.
The five-year programme will help thousands of people improve their health, and will reach 57,000 people at home, including more than 10,000 expectant and new parents.
Local St John Malawi volunteers make door-to-door visits to households, teaching pregnant women about nutrition and antenatal check-ups, and helping them prepare for delivery.
In remote villages, where health services are unavailable, St John and local health staff run outreach clinics to bring services to some of the country’s most vulnerable people. In all, nearly 100,000 people will benefit directly from the programme.
It is hoped the programme – which has been funded until 2023 – will also contribute to the sustainable development of Malawi’s health sector in the long term.
One person who has already benefited from the project is 26-year-old Bena Sakala. Bena miscarried her first pregnancy at six months, and during her second and third pregnancies suffered from severe fatigue due to poor nutrition.
Bena was used to visiting the health clinic only after eight months of pregnancy. However, when she became pregnant for a fourth time, she was visited at home by volunteers from St John.
At seven months, Bena became ill and her feet, arms and face became swollen. St John volunteers immediately referred her to the clinic, where she was diagnosed with high blood pressure, and admitted to hospital where she stayed for the next three weeks. Bena said: “If I had known the importance of pregnancy checks during my first pregnancies, it could have been different. For this pregnancy, the support I got meant I was able to safely deliver my baby girl in hospital.”