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Health systems in Malawi

On Wednesday, the Malawi High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Dr Francis Moto addressed the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Pneumococcal Disease in the Developing World (APPG) at their Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Dr Moto’s presentation was harrowing at best.

It should go without saying that Malawi is not the richest nation in the world. It is in fact, one of the poorest nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. So, it’s not surprising that there were a number of disturbing statistics that came out of that meeting. The most surprising and, in fact, utterly shocking, was the number of Malawian trained doctors currently working in Malawi, a country of 13 million.

How many doctors would you think there are? 10,000? 5,000? Keep going down.

150

According to the High Commissioner, there are only 150 Malawian trained doctors to treat a nation of 13 million. A nation with a 12-13% HIV rate. A nation where 90% of those HIV patients will suffer from pneumonia, mostly caused by pneumococcal disease. According to DFID, Malawi has a life expectancy rate 37 years and an infant death rate of 133 per 1000 children.

And only 150 doctors.

I’m sure it was no surprise that every jaw in the room dropped.

Only 20 medical grads graduate from the Malawian University each year, but according to those numbers, if each doctor stayed, in just 7 years, the entire medical fraternity would more than double. Unfortunately, many of these new grads are enticed overseas. Dr Moto then went on to explain that the old joke that there were more Malawian doctors in Manchester than in Malawi was actually once based in fact.

On the positive side, Malawi has a stable government who are actively engaging with groups like GAVI, PneumoADIP and the APPG, in an attempt to fix the problem of health systems and infant mortality. Malawi has also expressed interest in introducing the pneumococcal disease vaccine according to the Advance Market Commitment programme. That hopefully shows there is some light at the end of a very long tunnel.

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