Malawi Clinician Fights Malnutrition with Mobile Clinics
Keston Mhango, a clinician, was saddened by the high levels of malnutrition in children at Ekwendeni Mission Hospital, Susan Moyo.
Malawi-Keston Mhango, a clinician at Ekwendeni Mission Hospital in Mzimba district, used to lock himself in a separate room and cry after making rounds in the wards due to the high levels of malnutrition among the children admitted at the hospital, writes Susan Moyo.
In the 1990s, the hospital treated more than 40 children per day who were suffering from malnutrition and related diseases.
This led Mhango to ask for permission to leave so that he could go to his rural community and find out the main cause of malnutrition and possible solutions to the problem.
Mhango discovered that hunger and a lack of proper skills on how to prepare nutritious food for children were fueling the cases of malnutrition in the communities where the hospital serves.
After conducting research, Mhango suggested that the hospital introduce mobile clinics and primary health education to teach basic childcare skills and save the lives of the children.
The hospital officials agreed with Mhango’s idea.
According to Innovo Mobile Healthcare Clinics 2018, mobile health clinics can ensure that more people have primary and diagnostic health care brought closer to their homes.
It says the convenience of a mobile unit at any location ensures that no citizen is left without access to health care.
Since 1990, Mhango has been working in rural areas to ensure that the community has access to primary health care through mobile clinics.
Among other services, the clinics provide, under five clinics, antenatal clinics, immunization, and sexual and reproductive health rights. He has reached out to over 400 villages in Mzimba, in the north, with mobile clinic services.
“I retired last year but I am happy that I left the office on a good note. I have achieved what I wanted by decreasing the malnutrition status from 49 percent in 1990 to 1 percent in 2022. I am also happy that the approach of mobile clinics was also adopted by the government and other mission hospitals,’’ Mhango disclosed to Africabrief.
Recently, Malawi health authorities deployed mobile vaccination clinics in rural areas to bring COVID-19 vaccines closer to people with the aim of boosting the COVID-19 uptake.
Wezzi Phiri, a woman from group village Ezekiel at Enyezini in Mzimba, said mobile clinics help them so much in accessing primary health care.
“We no longer have to travel to Ekwendeni hospital, which is far from our village, to access primary health services because, through the mobile clinic, we are able to access these services close to us. Even before we get the services, health officials in our communities share knowledge on how we can manage the challenges we face, teach us to prepare nutritious food so that our families and children are healthy all the time,” said Phiri.
Dorothy Soko, another woman from the group village of Lazaro Jere at Engc’ongolweni under traditional authority Mtwalo in Mzimba district, concurred with Phiri, saying mobile clinics play a crucial role in good health.
“Sometimes we fail to travel to Ekwendeni to get vaccines for our children and other health services because of the long distance, but when the services are closer to us, we are always ready to get assistance. Through these clinics, we have learned to cook nutritious food, which prevents our children from getting malnourished,” she said.
Health expert Professor Maureen Chirwa commended the mobile clinic initiative, saying it helps bring primary health services closer to communities.
"People no longer have to walk long distances and spend money on transportation to access health services because these mobile clinics are bringing the services to their communities. Through these mobile clinics, people can get tested, know their status, and receive treatment at the right time," Prof. Chirwa told AfricaBrief.
In January of this year, Airtel Malawi plc awarded Mhango one million Kwacha through its Zili Mwa Ife campaign, which aims to celebrate individuals working to improve the lives of communities around them, for their role in championing the mobile clinic initiative in Malawi.
Mhango said the one million Kwacha will be used to set up a disability centre in Ekwendeni.
Shared! Great story for those of us who feel like him and are trying to address the problems we are seeing in our communities. Keep working on solutions together we can achieve them.