Dzaleka Health Centre is a small hospital that lies at the heart of Dzaleka Refugee Camp located roughly 50 kilometers from Malawi’s capital Lilongwe. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the health centre caters to over 70,000 individuals within and around the refugee camp. The majority of these individuals – 62 percent – are Malawians surrounding the camp. Due to the vast number of people that the hospital serves, the health centre usually experiences an obvious challenge – shortages of essential drugs. For instance, just recently the medical personnel at the hospital disclosed that they ran out of anesthetics, which is a vital medication, especially in the labour ward. The shortage of drugs and medication at the hospital poses a threat.
Dzaleka has exceeded its absorption capacity by over 300 percent. Overpopulation in the camp, coupled with poor sanitation caused by congestion put both the refugee camp and Dzaleka Health Centre on the fast lane to imminent catastrophe.
“This caused a lot of concern and called for us to be fully prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Henok Ochalla, Senior Protection Officer for UNHCR Malawi. Henok explained that UNHCR reached out to its partners within and outside Malawi to assist in improving the capacity of Dzaleka Health Centre in preparedness for COVID-19. There is Hope shared UNHCR’s concern and we took a stand, more so because we were one of the organizations heavily affected by the pandemic. When Malawi was declared to be in a state of national disaster, the government ordered all educational institutions to be closed.
“We work in the educational sector and when schools closed we did not want to stand aside and watch from a distance,” our Executive Director, Innocent Magambi said, adding, “We wanted to support the government in the COVID-19 battle and we reached out to our friends in Canada and the US.”
Soon, our cry for help was heard. With the support from Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC), IAFR assisted us in securing over $81,000 worth of essential medication. The 23 boxes consisted of vital drugs such as analgesics, antibiotics, hypertensives, hydrochlorothiazide and protective gear.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and while facing fear and anxiety, our plea for help was heard by HPIC. The generous aid we receive is stocking our clinic in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp, but also helping to treat others in nearby communities. In the midst of this pandemic, we have not been forgotten and hope and health remains within us.”
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