Public Health: Miller May 2020 Update
As my office printer whirled out the 22 pages of our final grant application, Chifundo and I heaved sighs of relief. Then we prayed for the thousands of individuals who this program could impact over the next year, and for many years to come. The project was simple enough – to buy 500 hybrid egg-producing chickens to fill a facility donated by a local chief and start a self-sustaining poultry project. Alinafe Communities of Hope, a Malawian-led nonprofit benefitting elderly, widowed, and disabled individuals, already invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into the program set-up, and Chifundo knew enough numbers to make a grant-writer’s heart skip a beat in glee. All the program planning was already done, so we just had to explain the plan, make some calculations for disaggregated indirect beneficiaries, and send it off. Somehow it still took us about 15 hours over 3 weekends, and Chifundo’s dedication to work side by side with me in every step of the writing process was like nothing I’d seen from group projects before. I see it as a reflection of how unique the Alinafe organization is- its leaders really want to help the most vulnerable in their communities help themselves in ways that promote dignity and buy-in. And this poultry program would really make an impact – introducing protein into the diets of thousands of men, women, and children in the villages surrounding Nkhoma even as it supplied the funds for vocational training in sustainable agricultural practices. Even better, local proceeds would augment foreign donations toward Alinafe’s relief programs during cold, rainy, and hunger seasons.
I pray that this is only the beginning of partnership between Nkhoma Mission Hospital and Alinafe. I start thinking of ways to incorporate them into plans for blood pressure screening and treatment in our area. We’re already thinking of using their village groups for education and prevention during this pandemic. With their connections to vulnerable people in so many surrounding communities, they could really make a difference and prevent poor outcomes. Ah, COVID-19. I have long-since lost track of how many grants, policies, meetings, and crises I’ve been through since I started co-leading Nkhoma’s Disaster Preparedness Committee ten weeks ago. I remember years ago one mentor told me that it would be unusual for a doctor at a mission hospital to have 20% of her time available for public health or preventive medicine. But now, as my national colleagues take care of most of the hospital’s patients, so I spend more than 90% of my time on projects that can impact groups of people. We’ve found ways to protect our staff with PPE and isolation areas, protocols and stipends. We’ve developed teaching materials for health centers and community health workers, and designed programs for training. We pulled together resources for locally sustainable sanitation and mask making in a weekend hackathon. It’s impossible to say what will happen next, but we’re thankful to be here with so much opportunity to make a difference during this hard time.
Thanks for your support and prayers,
Christina and Greg