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By Pauline Amulen MMM
Cholera is an annual problem during Malawi’s rainy season typically from the month of December to March, with about 100 deaths per year. However Malawi’s latest Cholera outbreak has been described as the worst in two decades with every Malawian district affected, 881 fatalities reported, 26,888 cumulative cases as per 18th Jan 2023. The state president on 5th December 2022 declared Cholera outbreak a “public health Emergency”.
Blantyre and Lilongwe are the most affected areas in the country. The government declared in the beginning of the year for schools from these two places to remain closed for two weeks after the Christmas Holiday to prevent further infections in schools.
Cholera is contracted by eating foods or drinking water contaminated with the “vibrio Cholerae bacterium”. It can affect both adults and children causing severe diarrhoea and can kill within a few hours if not treated. According to the survey carried out by Lilongwe water board, water test results from the nine shallow wells in Area 36, Mtandire and Mtisirisa where our health centre is situated reveal faecal coliforms indicating that the water is contaminated #Times360News.
The afternoon of 19th January was a very sad one at St Kizito health centre, we received two patients respectively a child of nine months old and a youth of about 26 years of age. The youth was very weak and had two people supporting him side by side into the OPD with signs of Cholera, the nurses quickly made ORS for him and had him immediately referred to the health centre handling Cholera cases. The child was rushed into the clinician’s examination room, unfortunately he found that the child had already died before they arrived the health facility. Oh!!! Cholera claimed the life of this innocent child. We had the remains of the child kept in the health centre as burial arrangements were quickly made and the parents, friends and relatives painfully sat in the health centre premises waiting.
Though St Kizito does not directly deal with Cholera patients we cannot deny the fact that we receive and treat some patients with mild symptoms since our facility is the only affordable one present around the area.
The government is trying its best to help curb the situation by providing free Cholera vaccine, Chlorine and health talks. Mtiliza too is playing a very great part in this with daily talks on hygiene and sanitation to all the patients and clients who come to the facility.
Sr. Bernie Kenny, MMM has lived and served in the Appalachian region of USA for many years. She lives in Clinchco, a small rural town in the corner of Virginia, close to the border of Kentucky. For many years, Bernie, a nurse practitioner, and midwife, ran a rural health service using a health wagon to reach the farthest and poorest of communities in the coal mining district of the state.
More recently she has been involved in parish ministry and shared with us both the joys of belonging to a multi-ethnic community and the sorrows inflicted by climate change effects which hit her area during 2022, as follows:
“Our parish is composed of people from many nations. Fr. Eric Bafour Assomah is from Ghana and we have Indian Missionaries of Charity who care for special needs children, working individually with each child. Last August, our communities were badly affected by floods. In a mountainous region like Appalachia, floods mean rushing water, devastation, and debris. Forty-four people died and 2,500 homes were destroyed. The Health Clinic in a nearby town, Isom, KY, was also destroyed. It received eight feet of mud and was inoperable from 28th July onwards. On 1st August, St. Mary’s Health Wagon, initiated by MMM, crossed State lines, and donated for one year an older vehicle to serve as a temporary Clinic. I am delighted to know that it is open seven days a week, not just Monday to Friday. The debris from the hurricane is still very evident in the area.
Last week I visited the Clinic and saw many clients coming with a variety of ailments, influenza, respiratory viruses, and Covid being the most common. There are high levels of stress and anxiety. Many families, who lost homes and vehicles, are living with relatives which leads to its own problems.
The local grocery store has a sign which states “Hope to open in Spring 2023.”
That is my hope too!”
Steps for Hope returns in 2023 for its 2nd year. We will be taking Steps for Hope all during Lent and we would love you to be part of it with us. Participants are encouraged to set a Step total that challenges them but is comfortable enough to attain. We invite you to join us and walk, run or cycle – you can even swim if you want. If you are unable to participate, then we invite you to donate or sponsor one of our participants.
We are excited to welcome people from all over the world who will be taking Steps during Lent 2023. For more information and to sign up here is the link: STEPS FOR HOPE
By Sr. Ursula Agge MMM
In the Eastern part of Nairobi, Kenya, lies Mukuru slum, an informal settlement with an estimated population of 1,000,000 people. MMM Mukuru was born right in the middle of this slum in the year 1995 (twenty-seven years ago). We minister to the health needs of the community. Over the years, the area in which the facility is situated has attracted an influx of people from rural areas in search of opportunities in the city, due to its proximity to Nairobi’s industrial area.
Like a typical slum, housing conditions are very poor with congested and poorly ventilated plywood or iron sheets buildings. Each six by four feet room would usually house about six people while acting as both sleeping and cooking space for all six people.
The slum lacks a solid waste disposal system and there is no proper garbage collection or drainage system. Consequently, the environment around the slum is very dirty and overpopulated. The general feeling of most inhabitants is that of despair. The adverse effect these conditions have on the health and wellbeing of the aged, children and the ailing can only be imagined.
Over the years, as we minister to the health needs of the inhabitants of this community and its environs, we have had to minister to their physical, psychological and social well being. We realized that there was a sense of overdependence on the facility. True to the saying that the “best gift to a hungry person is not fish but to teach them the skills of fishing”, we embarked on a training of selected community and youth leaders. These leaders and other stakeholders were empowered with knowledge and skills that enabled them to take initiatives within the community. We call it – Training for Transformation (TfT).
Now, rather than sit and bemoan their fate, they have been empowered to own their destinies and become more proactive in the daily affairs of the community. While we continue to support them with the necessary information and mentoring, they have gone on to achieve noteworthy changes in their community.
When the rate of young girls dropping out of school as a result of poverty, teenage pregnancies, and stigma due to their HIV status became worrisome, these trained leaders organized a campaign to raise funds to send these girls back to school. They successfully got funding from the Local Government for tuition, uniforms and sanitary products for about 150 girls to return to their classrooms. Similarly, when a public school was grabbed by a private investor, it was repossessed by the community through the initiative of the leaders trained on TfT and other stakeholders. The school with approximately 1500 pupils is run by the government. There are now three public schools in the Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums.
Again, a community market was repossessed through the efforts of these leaders. It is serving the community for exchange of goods and services, thus reducing crime rates and other vices which were rampant in the area. The market provides a livelihood to most community members which in turn serve the poorer people.
The Community leaders being proactive again came to the fore during the outbreak of COVID 19. The community leaders took the initiative to lobby other players so as to provide masks, hand sanitizers, hand washing points, soap and sensitized the community on the importance of observing the COVID 19 WHO guidelines. This reduced the spread of the virus within the community
All these activities are improving the confidence levels of the inhabitants of the community and hopefully would help to exponentially reduce crime rates. There is a renewed sense of ownership and responsibility for their lives and environment. We hope these leaders will continue to inspire their community to work towards a healthier and cleaner environment for their physical, emotional and mental well-being.
“My name is Uyai (not original name). I am twenty six years old. I am married and this was my first pregnancy. I had this sad experience of VVF for six months. I was pregnant and during labour, I went to a prayer house to deliver. This happened when the doctors during my AnteNatal visit warned me that I can only deliver through Caesarean Section (C/S).
The prophetess in the prayer house prophesied that I should not go back home and also I should not go to the hospital for the C/S. So I remained there in the prayer house for three days. The baby’s head was in between my legs and could not come out. On the fourth day, the baby had died, and I was rushed to a hospital where the body of the baby was taken out. I was unconscious for two days, and the following day when I regained consciousness, I struggled to wake up on my own but I couldn’t because all the muscles on my legs were very weak. From then I discovered that I could not control urine and feces anymore, neither could I stand up or walk.
A terrible experience. I lost hope of living and never wanted to see anybody again, even my husband. He encouraged me to stay at the prayer house. I was just waiting to die when my husband came in one day and begged me with tears to please follow him to one hospital called VVF. I finally agreed and that is how I have become a normal person again. I can walk and I am dry’. ‘I do not know how to thank this hospital. The six months with VVF was like ten years in hell for me and they brought me out from there’.
Mukuru slum has attracted an influx of people from rural areas in search of opportunities in the city due to its proximity to Nairobi’s Industrial Area. The industries provide casual labourers with daily wages, other people engage in petty trade and hawking, to feed, clothe and entertain the thousands of inhabitants. Poverty is widespread, with a population density of about 50,000 people per square mile, housing is congested. They are mainly from semi-permanent materials, iron sheets, mud, wood and plastic, resulting in poorly ventilated buildings susceptible to destruction by flooding/fires. Six people may be occupying one single room measuring 3 by 4 square meters, a room that performs various functions from cooking to sleeping. The road network is bad; there is no drainage system, no solid waste disposal facilities, and no proper garbage collection equipment. This combinations of factors poses a serious threat to the health and well-being of the population, especially for children, pregnant women and those who are ailing.
When the clinic building was taken down, the Sisters first concern was to maintain the health services they provide in the community. Two containers were immediately stripped of their contents and converted into a makeshift clinic. In December, using iron sheets and wood, a temporary building was erected for the Mother and Child clinic and the two containers were available for other services for the pregnant women of the area. Many are HIV positive and a special programme is run to prevent Mother to Child transmission. There is voluntary HIV testing for pregnant women on their first antenatal visit.
Many families, unfortunately, had their dwellings destroyed at this time and this had led to great unrest in the area, particularly among the youth. There have been episodes of vandalism, protests and further destruction of property by the protesters themselves. The Sisters are now looking at ways to encourage the community leaders to channel some of this energy into more life promoting activities. With civil unrest, many clients are defaulting from attending the clinic and looking after their health needs.
Presently the Sisters are looking for funds to rebuild the clinic, and have the necessary clearance from the local authorities.
by Sr. Bernadette Fadegnon MMM
It all began with a thought, listening to how people expressed the way they felt. They were tense and anxious, because of the excess stress generated by the pandemic.
This touched me deeply because for me as a Medical Missionary of Mary. Our Congregation has a Charism directed towards healing. It calls me to do anything that I could to relieve some of the suffering of people in this time of need. I observed and reflected on how I could help and I now offer my learnings, giftedness and passion to help those in need of healing.
Massage is an alternative way to release many from severe stress after they have been accompanied by a psychologist, I thought.
The community supported my initiative. A letter was drawn up for announcing in our local parish. The letter was addressed to the parish priest and offered free massage sessions for adults over 18 years of age as a way to contribute to their physical, emotional and psychological health and reduce the stress caused by the pandemic. The venue for this therapy was the Parish Pastoral Centre (Casa da Juventude). It was also emphasized in the announcement that all Covid-19 protocols would be observed as far as possible. Each beneficiary was to come with their own towel or bedsheet. Any person having symptoms of Covid-19 or influenza was not to sign up for the massage therapy.
One of our former staff Ana is very active in the parish and I could remember her joy
and excitement when I shared the idea with her. She advised me that if this is announced in the Church, everybody will want to come for it. It would be better to let some of them that know the people who are in real need get in touch with them and put them in the roster according to the times and days we have drawn up.
According to the plan, it was to be a three-week programme, two weeks in December and one week in January. Within a couple of days, the list was filled up for two weeks in December; Monday to Saturday two massages daily in the morning period.
The news went round the neighbourhood as those who have benefited went on sharing about the good news to the extent that when we opened the list for the remaining one week of January, the roster was filled up in a day.
It is like the attitude of Andrew in the Bible to whom John the Baptist pointed out Jesus. After Andrew had had a positive influence, he went to call his brother Simon Peter to come and experience the same. Many of the women, after receiving the massage, tell their neighbour who is in need of such therapy. Some will ask right there after the session, if there is a space for them to put down the name of someone they know who needs massage therapy. Some will tell the neighbour or relative to come and inquire if there is still space.
A total number of 34 women benefited from this action during these two months.
This has given me a sense that I could offer something very good and important to people in time of need without much financial resources, except my own good energy and passion for what I know best to do. This initiative has shown me that massage therapy is one of the real needs as a response to the effect of Covid in our world. As we continue to pray for the end of Covid, we ask the Lord to grant us the wisdom to diligently continue to respond in a way that prevents the spread of this unwanted guest which has come to stay with us.