HEALTHCARE VOLUNTEERS IN MALAWI, AFRICA
Are you an open-minded, flexible and proactive medical professional looking for medical volunteering opportunities in Malawi? Volunteers with medical training should come with an open mind and be aware that you may find yourself doing very different work than your usual practice back home due to the vast differences in how healthcare is delivered in Malawi. Depending on your expectations, this can be both frustrating and very rewarding.
Medical Volunteering in Malawi
Nurses, Midwives, and Doctors
To be most useful in a rural health center setting, healthcare volunteers need to be fully trained clinicians such as nurses, midwives, or doctors. In some instances, senior medical students will be considered. We are not able to accept medical or nursing students doing their electives as there are no staff at the Dispensary or other local Health Centers who are sufficiently qualified to supervise.
Areas of experience which are particularly useful include General Practice, Tropical Medicine, Pediatrics, Infectious Diseases, HIV, Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Previous experience working and/or traveling in a developing country would be of great benefit. Unlike our education volunteer program where we have a number of projects where volunteers can be utilized, we have fewer healthcare-related opportunities for medical volunteers.
Please be aware that the Dispensary and Health Centers have very few facilities, and some healthcare professionals may find working at these limiting and frustrating. (Please read the documents at the bottom of this page so you are aware of what to expect.) Three healthcare volunteers (one doctor and/or two nurses) is the maximum number needed at any one time. In addition to working at the Dispensary and/or Health Centers, healthcare volunteers may also elect to spend one or more days a week at the rural hospital in Chintheche (15 mi north of Mwaya Beach). A number of healthcare volunteers have also taught at the local secondary school and have found this very rewarding.
Currently, there is a shortage of physical therapists in Malawi, especially in rural communities. These rural areas depend on community-based organizations such as MACOHA ((Malawi Council for the Handicapped) and MAP (Malawi Against Physical Disability) to deliver physical therapy services to individuals in need.
Physical therapy assistants most often provide these services but there are not nearly enough to address the demand. Therefore, physical therapists with experience working with people with disabilities, neurological disorders, paediatrics, burns and amputees would find their skills and knowledge very useful in this area of Malawi. In addition, anyone with general musculoskeletal and orthopaedic knowledge will also find plenty of work in the community.
Our Disabilities and Rehabilitation project supports people in the community with cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, muscular dystrophy, and varying deformities requiring orthopaedic correction, together with the treatment of patellofemoral pain, arthritis, back pain, and post fracture immobilization stiffness. Please read the documents listed at the bottom of this page for further information.
Medical volunteering in Malawi requires a minimum stay of four weeks, however, the average volunteer placement is typically around three months. This allows volunteers to establish solid relationships in the community and contribute a reasonable amount of time to the projects. Although volunteers benefit enormously from their experience with Ripple Africa, it is important to recognize that our main responsibility is to provide consistent and effective medical assistance to the community.
Our Volunteer Project Manager oversees all volunteers at Mwaya Beach and is responsible for maintaining consistency and continuity in relationships, projects, and work already underway. Upon arrival, he introduces medical volunteers to the Mwaya Dispensary and staff, as well as the VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing for HIV/AIDS) clinics, under 5s clinics, etc., and Kachere Health Center.
Medical Volunteering in Malawi – Community Dispensary, Health Centres and Rural Hospital
Mwaya Dispensary, and Kachere and Tukombo Health Centers fall within the Nkhata Bay District administrative area, which has a population of approximately 300,000 people. Of these, about 30,000 live in Nkhata Bay boma (town) itself and 240,000 reside in rural areas. There are 15 rural health centers, one regional hospital and one District hospital in the Nkhata Bay District.
Mwaya Dispensary, and Kachere and Tukombo Health Centers together serve a population of approximately 21,000 people and, as is true throughout Malawi, medical services are free of charge. Both the Dispensary and the Health Centers deal mainly with the treatment of malaria, malnourishment, and minor illnesses, but only the Health Center at Kachere has facilities for delivering babies. The dispensaries at these facilities stock basic medicines and some antibiotics.
Patients without life-threatening conditions are usually referred to the rural hospital at Chintheche, or the Kachere or Tukombo Health Centers. Larger hospitals in Nkhata Bay (37 mi away) and Mzuzu (62 mi away) usually deal with more serious ailments.
A weekly VCT (Voluntary Counselling and Testing for HIV/AIDS) clinic is held at Mwaya Dispensary, as well as at Kachere and Tukombo Health Centers. Staff at the VCT clinics (some paid and some volunteers) can perform HIV/AIDS tests with immediate results. and provide medical counseling for those who test positive and/or need additional information.
Under 5s clinics are held regularly to monitor and inoculate babies and children under five years old. These clinics are held at Mwaya Dispensary, Kachere and Tukombo Health Centers, and in the local area.
Our healthcare volunteer program is very much a self-directed initiative that involves evaluating the needs of the Dispensary and Health Centers with help from the Medical Assistants, nurses, and Health Surveillance Assistants, and tailoring your responsibilities to best meet these needs, taking into account your special skills and interests. Medical volunteering in Malawi also gives you an opportunity to work on various outreach projects which can be arranged in liaison with staff at the Dispensary and Health Centers.
Mwaya Dispensary is a short walk from Mwaya Beach, whereas Kachere Health Center is located about 4 mi away and Tukombo Health Center about 9 mi. Buses, mini-buses, and taxis can be caught at Matete village. There are bicycles at Mwaya Beach which can be used by volunteers traveling to Matete, and some volunteers have walked to Kachere which takes about 90 minutes each way.
If you are interested in volunteering as a volunteer nurse, midwife, doctor, or physical therapist, please read the documents listed at the bottom of this page for more details. For medical professionals who wish to be registered with the relevant regulatory bodies in Malawi during their volunteer placement, additional information will be provided upon request. Please note, however, that the registration process can take a long time so applications should be submitted well in advance of arrival.