It was the first trip for many to Africa, including myself.
Along the paved road to Zomba, where we stayed for six days, was an expansive landscape of dirt roads, mountains, fields with random piles of burning shrubs and rocks, and brick homes. The homes were topped with tin roofs (the most expensive, I learned), palm frond roofs, or no roofs at all.
Our hotel was up a steep grade sitting high atop a mountainside overlooking the villages below. I don’t think I was the only one who felt fortunate for the comforts of hot running water, electricity and a toilet! Most local homes, I learned, do not have running water; rather, there are one or two bore holes (manually operated wells that pump water from the ground) that the community shares.
The hosts of our trip work for the Malawi Children Organization and several Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) that distribute Vitamin Angels’ prenatals. In addition, they provide health care counseling, village level care group structures and monitoring/evaluation of the effectiveness of localized health advocacy and education. During our days in the field they took us to multiple communities who benefit from this care. Although we were welcomed formally at all of them by mothers and children, the greetings varied greatly village to village. But our mission—to reach the unreachable, who would otherwise be invisible—stayed the same.
Our first visit of the trip was to the Namikango Clinic, where they birth an average of 100 babies a month! Many doctors and nurses were on staff in the next room tending to three mothers who gave birth just the day before. We received the honor of visiting with these mothers, who watched their sleeping children with adoration. Little ones who awoke to breastfeed were immediately attended to, as the act is not considered private or taboo in these areas. It was a beautiful and instinctual response to witness. (continued below)