Friday, June 23rd, 2017
Partners In Health | Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo
On Friday the 16th of June, Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU) (Partners In Health in Chichewa) celebrated ten years of accompaniment and solidarity with the Ministry of Health in Neno, Malawi. The celebration itself was a resounding success, with the Minister of Health and other partners in attendance, as well as the well-known Malawian band the Black Missionaries. But beyond the commemoration day, what was the ten-year event all about?
Let’s first set the scene. From the main tarmac road, it takes at least 45 minutes to reach the main town where APZU works, known as Neno Boma, along an unpaved, mostly rocky, river-forging ‘road.’ PIH has been working in Neno District since 2007, when the government of Malawi asked PIH to help support what was then a brand-new district, one of the most rural districts in the country, and one without a district hospital and limited health infrastructure. APZU works here, as PIH does in all the countries where they work, to help support the Ministry of Health (MOH) provide comprehensive health care to those that need it most.
I’ve personally been working with APZU for a year and a half. I first became involved with PIH Canada when I was an undergrad at McGill and was part of a Students for Partners In Health club. My interest in PIH stemmed from their dedication to providing quality health care to the poor and the relentless commitment to deliver world-class care regardless of place. I now work as a Research Fellow for APZU, helping to support ongoing and new research, making maps, and promoting research throughout the organisation. As such, I’ve been able to see the difference in outcomes, patients enrolled, programmes commenced, and so much more that has happened since PIH began working here.
For the last 10 years, APZU has worked with the MOH to implement a number of new programmes, including the Integrated Chronic Care Clinic (IC3), Screening for Health and Referral in the Community (SHARC), and an innovative approach to partnership coordination called D-LUCS (District Leadership for Universal Health Coverage and Coordination of Stakeholders). These programmes allow for HIV services to be integrated with NCD care, for patients to be screened (and referred and linked to care) for the most common diseases at locations close to their homes, and for the district leadership to take ownership of the health services provided in their areas and thus help coordinate delivery and support in whatever way works best for them. Additionally, APZU has invested millions of dollars in infrastructure projects, including: the construction of the district and community hospitals, structures that house male, female, maternal, TB, paediatric, and outpatient wards; the building of two health centres and a warehouse to store clinical and non-clinical supplies; and the development of over 35 administrative and staff buildings. APZU now employees just under 1,000 community health workers, allowing for 15,000 home visits over the last decade.
And while the numbers may sound great, it’s the outcomes and growth that truly speak to APZU’s commitment. In 2006, there were just 5 HIV patients actively enrolled in care at one hospital. As of 2016, there was over 7,800 at facilities across the district. Same goes for NCD clients: in 2009, there were 120 people enrolled in NCD care at the district hospital, now, there are NCD services at 11 health centres and 2 hospitals, with 2,700 patients in care. Neno district has the highest 12-month survival rates for HIV patients across the country, with 89% survival in 2016, compared to the national average of 79%.
The last 10 years have seen APZU and Neno grow hand-in-hand, but none of it could have happened without the partnership of the Malawian government. Which is why the 10-year celebration event was so special: it showcased the work of accompaniment and solidarity, revealing what has and can be achieved with a strong commitment to partnership and providing care to all.
Partners In Health | Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo