Re: Christine's article Hope For Africa's "Cursed" Children
First: Stacia since you are there, or anyone else who might know, was this hospital started by Dr. Chris Lavy from MAP? Just before we left (96), he was starting to talk about trying to get an orthopedic hospital set up. At the time we were there we serial casted club feet in babies and the orthopedic clinical officers did some surgeries but only for really young kids who lived near enough to Blantyre to get to QECH regularly. With burn adhesions...some were released whenever a volunteer plastic surgeon was available. Really glad this has happened.
Second: I am disgruntled, as is often the case, by the generalizations in this kind of azungu article....as well as the articles that make our newspapers about witches and ghost hyenas, etc. The statements "There is a lot of stigma for children like this and it is considered a curse if anything like this happens to them. They are judged on whether they can carry a bucket of water and if they can't they are considered no good," are certainly still true in some communities but the article makes it sound true throughout Malawi. These kinds of statements perpetuate the notion that Malawians are universally backward, uneducated and supersticious (even though they're credited with being "warm and friendly"). I guess it's good for generating sympathy and charity. Oh well, maybe we RPCV's just have to keep making an effort to bring understanding back home. Don't know if we ever wrote about the time we showed slides here and one older lady said that she was surprised at how clean Malawians looked....cleaner that we were; we didn't sweep our dirt each morning and weeds grew outside our gate! Other times people commented on the fact that our slides of Blantyre and Harare showed Africans in western clothes...looking "smart". Some were surprised that there were cities like Harare (can't quite say they commented with amazement about Blantyre). Somehow the misunderstandings and generalizations seem to me to make us take Africa's problems less seriously...makes Americans less able to personally identify with Africans. That's too bad.
Anyway, time to get off my soapbox again. If anyone asks what retired life is like...good for the most part, but it gives one too much time to get stressfully hot-under-the-collar about either inconsequential things or things one can do nothing about. So one just spouts off. Tsalani bwino all.
Hope for Africa's 'cursed' children
By Jane Elliott
BBC News Online Health Staff
For the first two years of his life burns victim Mavuto was unable to walk. An accident with scalding water had left the skin on one of his legs so scarred he was unable to stand. And the future looked bleak for the littleMalawian boy, whose name means problem. His injuries were not life threatening so he did not qualify for treatment at the local hospital.
But in a society where a disability is considered a curse Mavuto faced life as an outcast dependent on charity. Luckily for Mavuto he was one of the first patients chosen to get operations at the newly-opened Beit Trust Cure International Hospital for children in Blantyre.
Senior anaesthetist Nicola Canning said it was fantastic seeing the two-year-old stand up for the first time.
"He had been a burns victim and his left leg was completely bent double. He had never stood up, not in two and a half years. We released the thickened skin around the leg and put the leg in plaster. And 48 hours later he was standing. There is a lot of stigma for children like this and it is considered a curse if anything like this happens to them. They are judged on whether they can carry a bucket of water and if they can't they are considered no good," she said.
Nicola, who works at the Homerton Hospital, in East London, spent eight weeks holiday in the southern African state, helping set up the new orthopaedic hospital, which will serve nearly 50,000 disabled children. Nicola said she had been astonished by what she had seen in Malawi.
"It was amazing there was a hospital being set up so quickly. When we arrived the hospital was built, but everything for it was in
Malawi is ravaged by HIV, with drought, famine, plague and drug resistant malaria. The life expectancy is just 40.
But the new hospital, which employs the only four orthopaedic surgeons in the country, hopes to make life better for the 12 million Malawians.
The Homerton donated two anaesthetic machines to the hospital, which was set up following charity cash.
The first patient through the doors of the new hospital was 14-year-old Dalitso, who had no movement in one of his arms. He had fallen from a tree three years before and his arm had never been set.
Although Dalitso will need another two operations his future now looks a lot brighter thanks to the work of Nicola and her colleagues.
"We asked him if he was frightened of having the operation and he said no because he knew that we would make him a lot better
and that just made me cry."
There are lots of children there with bow legs because of rickets and with clubs feet. Many have deformities following falls from trees. "Without this hospital these children would not get treated because they are elective cases. Most of the children have malaria and HIV and worms and that slows down the healing process.
"Although this new hospital was great and a centre of excellence I did also see the state hospital and I will never complain about the NHS again.
"I fell in love with Malawi. The people have nothing, but they are warm and friendly. I will be going back again this year in my holidays. I found it very hard to leave," she said.