St John Malawi Primary Health Care Project
Malawi sits near the bottom of the UN Human Development Index, which calculates such factors as life expectancy and infant mortality, and ranks lower than any other country bar one in which St John operates.
The main objectives of the Primary Health Care Project are to improve child health and the primary prevention of illness among poor households. The project also helps to prevent illness through education and immunisation, with particular emphasis on the health of young children. Volunteers also provide other medicines and training in the home-based care of seriously ill people.
St John Scotland has supported the Malawi Primary Health Care Project since 1988, and this support has allowed the number of Community Health workers to be more than doubled over the project’s lifespan.
They work in the most densely populated townships of Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre, where living conditions are incredibly poor.
The project uses a low-cost but comprehensive approach to promote better health, which includes community health education, household visits, linkages to local health services and under-5s outreach clinics.
UNICEF notes that ‘clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of children’. St John Malawi volunteers assess household conditions, refuse disposal, toilets and basic hygiene and then indicate actions households need to take to improve sanitation.
The main sources of poor health addressed by the project are:
- Diarrhoeal disease and typhoid fever, which are related to sanitation and food handling
- Malaria, a leading cause of childhood death which can be prevented through the use of insecticide-treated bed nets
- Under-nourished and malnourished children and adults
- Eye infections related to hygiene such as conjunctivitis
- Skin diseases such as scabies