Stefano is 52 years old and with his wife and children, he Ives in the local fishing village of Chilambula. Of his five children, three are living at home and are attending local government schools.
Stefano started working at a lifeline Malawi in 2003, helping to build the mission house. He likes working for Lifeline Malawi because of the Christian element and morning prayers. He has peace in his heart when he is at work and the prayers keep him going. Also, his needs are being fulfilled financially because he had this job. He hopes that LM will continue working.
“Thank you to the donors, for their generosity to Lifeline Malawi. I have seen a change in the work over all these years. Thank you to the donors for I am happy that I can look after my family and I don’t sleep with an empty stomach. “His message to donors
“'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11
I would like to introduce you to Grace Mankunba, a happily married young woman who is HIV positive. With her is her lovely 12-month-old, very healthy daughter, Elsa, who is HIV negative. We can celebrate this moment because of the wonderful care Grace and Elsa are receiving at the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre.
Globally, an estimated 1.3 million women and girls living with HIV become pregnant each year. An HIV-positive mother can transmit HIV to her baby at any time during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. This is a deadly serious issue because without antiretroviral therapy, there is a 20 to 45 per cent risk of an HIV positive mother passing the infection on to their unborn child, and a 16 per cent chance of passing it on to their infant through breastfeeding.
Preventing Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV is one of the proactive measures that we take at the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre to transforms a life from one of probable illness to one with hope and a future. Since this program was introduced at Lifeline Malawi in 2008, when the Rosetree Maternity Unit was built, Lifeline Malawi has not had one vertical transmission of HIV from a positive mother to her baby.
What does this PMTCT program involve?
First, it is important for a mother to know her status. All pregnant mothers attending Lifeline Malawi prenatal clinics are tested for HIV. If they are positive, they start on the life-giving antiretroviral medicine. The sooner the mother starts the medicine, the better it is for her and her baby’s health.
These prescribed medicines continue throughout the pregnancy and during childbirth. The baby also is given antiretroviral medicine for the first 4 to 6 weeks of its life. Taking antiretrovirals will be a lifelong treatment for the mother.
After the birth, it is important for the moms and their babies to attend follow-up assessment clinics at LM. This is how I met Grace and Elsa as they are part of a Mother Infant Pairing (MIP). During these visits, the baby is tested for HIV at six, 12, and 24 months of age to check that the child status remains negative. At two years of age, and when the baby is weaned, the child is considered HIV negative and leaves the PMTCT program as another success story for Lifeline Malawi!
Thank you to all our donors who help support Lifeline Malawi in maintaining our facility, in training and paying our wonderful staff, and in giving a child like Elsa a really excellent start to a normal, healthy and happy life.
“We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you”. Psalm 33:20-22
Throughout our 12 years living in Malawi, Psalm 33 became an important scripture for me as we faced many uncertainties, illnesses, dangers, and the great need of the country around us. Dependability was not to be expected from our surrounding environment, so, our dependence on God grew as we waited in hope for the Lord to be our help and shield. Our hearts did indeed rejoice in this as we put our trust in Him.
As we began taking medical help to the rural community of Ngodzi, I saw an even greater dependence on God there for those who know Him. I see the joy and peace of God in them despite their suffering, poverty, illness, or circumstances. I am always humbled by their expressions of thankfulness to God for His great faithfulness and for His abundant love towards them. In their suffering and difficulties, God is their hope, and they wait patiently for Him. They seek Him fervently in prayer, singing joyful praises to their Saviour, and at times they cry out in lament as they feel the burden of their immense needs.
Lifeline Malawi is the answer to the prayers of many of the people and leaders in the community. There is no other place like Lifeline Malawi which shares the love of Jesus with the thousands of people that come to the clinic each month. There is no other medical help in the region for them or for their families, whether it be maternal health services, vital malaria treatment, HIV therapies, wound dressings, or childhood illnesses, just to name a few of our points of care. Through our faith and hope, and His unfailing love with us, we are able to make a huge difference in the lives of the people of our community, We do not do this without God connecting us to people like you who support this work. Together we are transforming lives and giving them hope and a better future through our trust in Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your faithful interest and support of Lifeline Malawi. The work is excellent, and I pray that the fruit it bears will glorify the Lord, and bring many lives to know Jesus.
Lifeline Malawi – Knowing Jesus Through Healthcare.
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thessalonians 1:3.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
With Kind regards,
Executive Director, Lifeline Malawi
Written by Heather Brooks
Thank you for helping Lifeline Malawi to battle against a killer disease for women in Malawi. Shockingly, Malawi has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the World. In Malawi, cervical cancer accounts for 37% of all new female cancers each year, about 4,145 patients, and about 2,905 women will die. Two contributing risk factors for cervical cancer are HIV and HPV infections. HIV prevalence in the country is 10.6% of adults aged 15–64 years. There is no real data on what percentage of the populations harbours the cervical HPV infection.
Lifeline Malawi is saving lives by identifying this treatable disease before it becomes untreatable. One way we do this is by screening women for cervical cancer at the LM Health Centre, or at outreach screening clinics in the community. Every woman from the age 25 to 49 is to be screened at least every three years. And those at higher risk, will be tested every year. Due to a lack of information or incentive, patients need to be urged to participate and this can be a challenge. We usually see a rise in those seeking cervical screening when there is a death due to cervical cancer in the community.
Lifeline Malawi is also saving lives by providing the HPV vaccine at primary schools, targeting young girls who we assume are not yet sexually active. It is given to those 9 to 13 years old, nationwide. We have the biggest success giving the vaccine at schools where teachers are involved in educating both the girls and their families. Our challenge is the resistance within the community to vaccines, many believing that this vaccination is a contraceptive and will prevent girls from getting pregnant.
Sadly, many of the cervical cancer cases we see at Lifeline Malawi cannot be cured, About a quarter of LM’s palliative care patients have cervical cancer. The majority of the women have failed to come to the clinic in good time. Most of them come when the cancer has already spread.
Lukia Uzeni is one such patient. She lived with her daughter whose thirteen-year-old son was the bread winner for the family. He is a shepherd boy for cattle and does not attend school. Lifeline helped Lukia with food and the cost of a minibus to Salima and to Lifeline Malawi for treatment. When Steve Russell and Heather Brooks were in Malawi in November 2021, they went to visit Lukia with the Reach Out and Touch Team at her home, to comfort her by bringing her food, sharing a message of hope from the Word of God, and praying for her. We were sad the hear that she passed away in December 2021.
Please help us to prevent this disease from taking more lives, by donating to Lifeline Malawi. With your donation, you make it possible for us to employ more staff to be trained in screening, and to initiate education and testing campaigns and outreaches that will result in more women being tested. You will be helping, too, to support those with cervical cancer who need transportation funds, supplemental food, and you will allow LM to train more staff in palliative care. And of course, it also helps us with the visits of the Outreach -and Touch Team to show the love of Jesus to the patients and their families.
Agnes comes from the Ngodzi area and has worked with Lifeline Malawi since 2005. She is a widow and has a fifteen year old son who is a a boarding school, so that he will receive a good education. Agnes joined LM as a patient attendant, helping as a cleaner and as a patient attendant at the RoseTree Maternity Unit. Agnes proved herself to be a good learner, cleverly picking up computer and data recording skills. With training, she became a pharmacy assistant and recently became the data clerk in the LM Health Centre’s HIV clinic.
She likes working for LM because it helps her support her son’s education so he can go to university. She also appreciates having an income to help her sister and her family. Agnes says that LM is her husband, looking after her needs.
You may not be aware that Malawi has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, currently at 29% of the 18.5 million population. These national figures are the same as what we experience at the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre. These very young mothers, sometimes as young as 12, give birth, provide care, and support their children, while they are still children themselves. Studies show that children raised in households of adolescent mothers are more at risk of low birthweight, stunted growth, infant mortality, low school enrolment, increased grade repetition, and dropout. In Malawi, babies born to women with no education experience an under-five mortality rate of 138 per 1,000 live births, in comparison to 94 per 1,000 for women with secondary education.
These are shocking statistics! Lifeline Malawi is working with the local chiefs, community leaders, social welfare workers, pastors, educators, and in the local schools to lower these rates and to change the behaviours that lead to early pregnancies. We are united in one voice trying to turn the tides of attitude and behavioural choices.
One such behaviour issue is child marriages, which is a serious problem in Malawi. The 2017 constitutional amendment raised the age of marriage to 18, for both boys and girls. This has helped. However, many cases of child marriages persist, particularly in rural communities that still follow old practices and have chiefs who ignore the law. About 46 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18, and 9 per cent before the age of 15. The main drivers of child marriage are poverty, cultural and religious traditions, and peer pressure. Other challenges with teen pregnancies result from adolescents being exposed to sexual activity at initiation ceremonies, which can lead to sex with peers and early marriages, or an unwanted pregnancy.
Even before Tropical Storm Ana hit Malawi on January 26, 2022, things were not good with the hydroelectrical grid in the country. The Electrical Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), which supplies Malawi with electricity, was already struggling to repair downed poles/power lines, damaged transformers, and compromised pumping stations due to severe storms that had blown through Malawi since the rainy season had begun in November.
Lifeline Malawi is located north of the area where Cyclone Ana struck and thankfully, we had no major damage. This powerful storm ripped through the southern region, sadly killing thirty-two people, causing devastating flooding, destroying homes, and damaging roads and bridges which would isolate the now homeless people who were needing medical help and food aid. The rebuilding of the region and the care for the people is underway.
The destruction caused by Tropical Storm Anna has generated even more problems for the ESCOM infrastructure. Throughout Malawi, there are now rolling power cuts and Lifeline Malawi is experiencing power cuts for days at a time.
This lack of power makes it very difficult to do the work of Lifeline Malawi. With the Omicron COVID virus in the community, our daily patient count in the Out-patient Department alone has increased from about 4,000 patients to 6,000 patients each month. Most of the increase is due to respiratory illness (COVID) or malaria, which increases in the rainy season. There are machines, like the vital O2 concentrator, laboratory testing machines, refrigeration for medicines and vaccines which require electricity.
Thankfully, there is a solar power system in the RoseTree Maternity Unit used for nighttime deliveries. After a decade of use, the system does not efficiently charge the batteries anymore and now the light gradually dims over the nighttime hours. On investigating new batteries, we find that our system will not work with the new batteries that are sold today. It seems we will need to upgrade the solar power equipment in the future. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) installed a new solar panel with batteries In May 2021 at Lifeline Malawi. This system was installed to support the Electronic Patient Record System and is to be exclusively used for this EGPAF project.
As I write this article, on February 14th, Justus has written to say there has been another storm, with parts of Salima, the nearest town, under water, and he highlights that the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre is on day ten without power.
Please consider donating to Lifeline Malawi to help us find a sustainable solution to the ongoing lack of electrical power in Malawi! The cost of a new system is approximately $6,000.00. Thank you for partnering with us in the work of Lifeline Malawi, in bringing hope and healing to the people we serve.
Gerson Zaithi is one of the smiling faces that our patients meet as they come to the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre. As a guard, he patrols the property at night, and greets people at the entrance gates on his day shifts. Gerson is outgoing and full of joy. He is the father of four children who are twelve, ten, seven, and one years old. He and his wife live very near the Health Centre, and he has worked for Lifeline Malawi since 2014. When asked what he appreciated about working for Lifeline Malawi, he said “that his problems are being solved because he has a job and is being paid, meeting his daily needs.” He also pointed out that he is thankful for the free medical care he and his family receive at Lifeline Malawi. “For if it had not been for Lifeline Malawi, I would have lost some of my family”.
When asked about what message he would give to our donors, he said “I will continue to pray for them, that God will bless the sources of their income, so I can continue working here, and helping my family”.
Thank you for your donation to Lifeline Malawi. Consider becoming a monthly donor and supporting Gerson who keeps us safe and warms our hearts with his smile. For $100.00 per month, you could be supporting Gerson and his family. Every donation goes a long way in Malawi toward making a difference.
One of my favourite things to do when I am in Malawi is to visit one of Lifeline Malawi’s many Support Groups for People Living with AIDS (PLHIA). All members are HIV positive and are on anti-retroviral therapy. The groups are located throughout the district. They support each other by reminding the members to take care of their health and stay on their medicines. They will follow-up with a fellow member if that person defaults from the program. They also help to mobilize interest on the issues surrounding HIV, through discussion with local chiefs, and by demonstrating that there is life for People Living with AIDS. There are still many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS in Malawi. Outreach sessions by the group provide correct information to educate community members accurately.
We visited the most active of all the LM support groups on this trip into the community. We met in an open field, under a baobab tree. Very fitting for Lifeline Malawi! This group had been chosen as a test case for an economic empowerment project. The group had received a plot of land, given by a local chief. Nelson Chinchembere, the LM’s HIV Testing and Counselling Supervisor, along with Steve Russell and myself, arrived bearing gifts of maize and soya seed for planting. What followed under the shade of the huge baobab, were speeches, singing, refreshments, and the smiles of people with grateful hearts. One of our messages during our speeches this day, was to remind the women to get tested for cervical cancer at the Lifeline Malawi Health Centre.
This visit happened at the end of November, and last week, I was excited to receive photos of the growing crops. Nelson, who took the phots, visited the group bringing them fertilizer this time. Due to the over working of the limited available land for farming in Malawi, fertilizer is a necessity. However, the average person cannot afford such an expensive item. The donated fertilizer will guarantee abundant yields of their crops.
This is one of the many ways that Lifeline Malawi is working to change people’s lives. When you donate to Lifeline Malawi you become a blessing to people living with HIV and, in this case, to help them to be successful in Lifeline Malawi’s first economic empowerment project. Thank you for your support!