This December, Standing Voice travelled to Malawi for the international launch of our Skin Cancer Prevention Programme! For the first time our life-saving clinics were delivered outside Tanzania.
Before the clinic our team met with authorities from the Malawian Ministry of Health. We advocated at the national level, with Mr Rex Cheonga, the Director of Rehabilitation; and at the district level, with Dr William Peno, the Mangochi District Health Officer. Both expressed their deepest support for the launch. We have been invited to submit a report and proposal to the Ministry of Health in January to move the project to its next phase.
Clinics were held in Makanjila Health Centre, Namwera Health Centre, and St Augustine’s School in Mangochi Town. The Government of Malawi showed great receptivity to these clinics, providing free venue space in local health centres, assigning personnel, and facilitating patient transport. Across 3 clinics we served 151 patients, many of whom had never seen a dermatologist in their life. 11 patients were referred for further treatment, with 2 receiving follow-up surgery from our core project team. Mangochi District Hospital and the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) contributed a number of vital sunscreens that were distributed at our clinics.
We also visited the Irish Embassy and met with the Irish Ambassador to Malawi, Ms. Aine Hearns, and the Head of Development, Mr. Gerry Cunningham, who expressed great support for our intervention and vowed to assist with in-country networking wherever possible.
These clinics yielded new and exciting data about the populations we serve and the local health systems and structures through which we operate.
This was an enormously successful pilot, paving the way for continued expansion of our Skin Cancer Prevention Programme and marking a big step forward for people with albinism in Malawi!
To quote one beneficiary from St. Augustine School: ‘This clinic has helped me greatly. I have learnt about albinism, sun protection and skin cancer prevention. This service should be delivered nationwide in Malawi.’
With thanks to our core project team: Jamie Willing, Standing Voice Project and Fundraising Coordinator; Dr Mark Wheeler and Carol O’Dea, from Eden Park Surgery; Dr. Jackson Materu, a Senior Dermatologist; APAM, represented by Bonface Massah (Head of National Programming) and Mangochi District branch representatives; and Dr. Kelvin Mponda, Senior Dermatologist based at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre. Our core team was supported by clinical officers from Mangochi District Hospital and Dr. Tilende Chikoto, a plastic surgeon working with Dr. Mponda in Blantyre.