Ilhame Ouansafi is an Enterprise Development Advisor with MBAs Without Borders volunteering at St. Luke’s Mission Hospital in Malosa, Malawi. She is working in collaboration with the hospital staff to enhance the ways in which St. Luke’s supports enterprise development and income generation. Ilhame is one of three MWB Advisors currently in the second month of their 6-month long assignment addressing healthcare throughout the country.
Malawi is such an exciting and surprising place to me – I am impressed by the diversity in this country; be it the amazing landscapes, the mix of cultures, languages, or religions. To me, the main “element” that defines Malawi is its people, and more particularly its children. They are indeed an open book; Malawi can be described and understood simply by looking and analyzing the children on the streets, in the markets, at the hospital, outside of their homes, playing in the mountains, or swimming in the lake.
Malnutrition is a serious problem in Malawi; affecting a large majority of the child population. In the Pediatric Ward at St Luke’s Mission Hospital in Malosa, there is a wing dedicated to malnourished children. Some of the admitted kids arrive with critical conditions involving skin infections, respiratory problems, and general overall weaknesses. Their average stay at the hospital varies between a few days and several months, during which time they are closely monitored and given a special diet, allowing for a gradual improvement; they are only released once they reach a stable condition.
Several international organizations currently fight against child labor in Malawi, preaching for children’s rights. Many businesses,notably tea and tobacco plantations, pride themselves with the label “Child free labor”. Many locals are demanding that child labor be abolished, however, due to the prevalence of deadly illnesses such as HIV, Malaria, and Pneumonia, some children become orphans at an early age and are forced to work in order to feed themselves and their family.
If a child’s parents die, and the extended families are unable to take care of the children, the eldest child becomes the “head of the family”. They are responsible for their younger siblings, and thus find themselves in a place where they have to work and bring home an income to support and nourish the family.
Although these unfortunate situations still exist and should not be ignored, Malawians can often count on their families, friends, and neighbors in difficult times; this is one of the beauties of Malawian society: mutual aid and a common fight for a better future.
Malawi really deserves its namesake as “The Warm Heart of Africa”. Malawians, even with all of the problems and challenges they face in their lives, they are very warm and happy people, always ready to enjoy the things that life has to offer.
And we can probably all agree that there is nothing more priceless than the smiles and laughter of children!