By Dr. Lynda Wilson
Thursday August 7 started with a wonderful opportunity to participate in a case review conducted by the chief nurse of the pediatric unit at the large Queen Elizabeth Hospital, along with about 25 nurses from the hospital pediatric and emergency wards, and also with several of the pediatric nursing faculty and students from KCN. They reviewed a case of a child who was admitted last Sunday with pneumonia, and identified the positive aspects of the care that had been provided, as well as areas where care or communication might have been improved. It was great to see the passion and dedication of so many nurses as they problem-solved to figure out ways to make the system better so that they could provide quality care, despite the limited resources here.
I had some discussions with Ellen Chirwa about a proposed new PhD program in collaboration with the University of Zambia and Zimbabwe, which will be supported with funding from NORAD, the Norwegian Aid agency. I spent much of the rest of the day trying to work with Charles, the Information Technology administrator for KCN, to put the quantitative research course I had prepared onto their online Moodle platform…There was no electricity at the school of nursing yesterday or today so we went to the Leslie Lodge where I am staying. Although I had electricity, we discovered that the system doesn’t work with the internet service provider they have at Leslie Lodge…We then went to a restaurant which has wifi with a different service provider – that doesn’t work either! We called the university and learned that the electricity is back on so back we went with high hopes…only to find that the entire system is “down.” I am advised to try again tomorrow, so fingers crossed!
Unfortunately, Friday there was still no luck with getting the online “Moodle” platform to work, so I wasn’t able to help put the research course on Moodle. I spent much of the day reading and grading master’s students’ papers for the ethics course, helping Ellen who is overloaded with work and grading! It has been interesting reading the students’ views about different ethical issues here (abortion and providing contraceptives to teens are the most popular topics). Deb Walker, my UAB nursing faculty colleague, came down from Lilongwe to spend the weekend with me and we planned a great adventure on Saturday. We also had a lovely visit with one of the KCN maternal-child nursing faculty members, Maria Chikalipo, who stopped by for afternoon tea (see photo below). Maria was one of 12 Malawi global health fellows who came to UAB for a 2 week workshop on interprofessional education that was supported by a grant from the U.S. State Department in 2012. She has invited us to her village home on Sunday for dinner and we really look forward to this!
What an adventure! Saturday Deb and I left our hotel at 9 am with our KCN driver, Richard who drove us about 60 km to beautiful Mulanje Mountain Forest Preserve, in the southern part of Malawi. Here is what Wikipedia says: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulanje_Mountain_Forest_Reserve) “The mountain is composed of syenite, quartz-syenite and granite rock materials. This forms a massif of approximately 500 km2. The surrounding Mulanje mountain is characterized by densely populated plains situated at 600m-700m above sea level. From the plains, it rises abruptly to high plateau basins at 1800-1900m surmounted by rock peaks to its maximum attitude of 3002m above sea level, Sapitwa Peak. In fact the mountain is the highest both in Malawi and South Central Africa. The structure and altitude of the mountain have led to the development of a unique climate for the area, which is characterised by high rainfalls from November to April. This climate favours the development of unique ecology of rare and endemic life forms which contribute to the massif’s high biodiversity. Mulanje is south of Blantyre.”
The drive to Mulanje is majestic … at the base of the mountain are verdant green tea plantations…we learned that the famous Chobe tea comes form this area in Malawi. The photos show the views with the tea plantations at the bottom of the mountain.
We first took a short hike on a trail behind the Kara Omula lodge where we passed several women carrying BIG and very heavy loads of wood coming down the mountain (most of them barefoot)…. We also passed some mean with machetes going up the mountain to cut reeds that are used for making thatched roofs on the houses.
Richard, our driver, had heard of another lodge with good hiking nearby so we drove down a very BUMPY dirt road and after nearly 30 minutes came to the Likhubula Lodge – we decided to have lunch and then hike with a guide to see a waterfall that we were told was only 45 minutes away…Once we learned that lunch would take 40 minutes to prepare, we decided to do the hike before lunch. Our guide, Alex, led the way up, up, and up a steep mountain path…After about 1 ½ hours (not 45 minutes!) we arrived at an incredibly beautiful waterfall. The hike was well worth it, and Deb and I slept very well last night!!