With the support of the Warm Hearts Foundation, Imaging the World is expanding our ultrasound health programs into Malawi. This is the first time we have extended the Uganda model to another country.
Over the next five years, we will bring ultrasound equipment and our training program to two very different locations in Malawi. The results of these pilot projects will provide valuable data to guide future growth in the country.
Similar to the what we found originally in Uganda, access to ultrasound is extremely limited in Malawi. While ultrasound machines are available at several district hospitals, as well as in the tertiary hospitals in Malawi’s two main cities, Lilongwe and Blantyre, many of the existing ultrasound units are out of date or in disrepair.
Access to ultrasound and well-trained providers who can perform and interpret ultrasound images is virtually non-existent in most rural areas.
One pilot project is at the Mercy James Centre for Paedriatric Surgery and Intensive Care in Blantyre, one of the only providers of intensive pediatric care in the country. As part of this five-year project, the center’s existing ultrasound equipment, dating from the 1990s, will be replaced with modern, portable units, bringing the diagnostic tool to more patients and producing far superior image quality.
In addition to the introduction of new equipment, a Continuing Professional Development program will be initiated at the center to raise the staff’s skill level, while aiding the sustainability of the program.
The second pilot project will be in Mangochi district in the southeast on the southern banks of Lake Malawi. Mangochi district has one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS, as well as one of the highest rates of treatable causes of death in Malawi and all of Africa. The majority of the district is composed of small rural communities of farmers and fishermen. Most of the healthcare needs of these communities is served by rural health centers that are located 2-5 hours from the nearest hospital.
Most women in this region choose to give birth at rural health centers. When a patient with a more serious condition comes to the health center, they are transferred to Mangochi District Hospital. Since health centers have limited tools available to determine the severity of medical problems in advance, and no ability to perform C-sections and other treatments on their own, patients are not able to receive the care they need. By the time a woman comes to a health center in labor and she is transported to Mangochi District Hospital, it is often too late to save the mother or unborn child.
Currently, few of the health centers in Mangochi district or anywhere else in Malawi have access to medical imaging. By providing ultrasound machines and comprehensive training on how to perform and interpret ultrasound scans, the physician and nurse/midwives at health centers will be able to diagnose a variety of conditions and determine the severity and need for urgent treatment in time for women to be transported to the central hospital.