Charity helps physiotherapy develop in Malawi

Three students in the south eastern African country of Malawi are set to graduate as physiotherapists, thanks to a pioneering scholarship scheme.

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Patients waiting outside Kamuzu Central Hospital, Malawi

UK charity Medic to Medic was set up in 2007 to support the education of health workers in Malawi. It provides scholarships for students to graduate in the country as doctors, physiotherapists, pharmacists and nurses.

The first physiotherapy course in the country started at the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine in Blantyre in 2010.

Medic to Medic director Tamsin Lillie said: ‘Prior to the course starting there were just 34 physiotherapists in the whole country, all of whom had trained outside Malawi.’

‘This November the second cohort of physiotherapists are graduating from the course and in a few short years, the total number of physiotherapists in the country will have doubled.’

CSP international adviser Birgit Mueller-Winkler told Frontline: ‘I think it is great to see models like this. Educating people locally rather than having to rely on non-governmental organisations sending physiotherapists from abroad is much more sustainable.

‘It also is a good way to reduce brain drain, as there is no need for young people to leave the country to train as physiotherapists.’

Accelerating development

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Physio graduate Thomas Mafunga working on a ward at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi

Medic to Medic gives scholarships to students with academic potential who are struggling to pay their tuition fees and are at risk of dropping out of their education.

The physios graduating this year are Memory Austin, Temweka Devwe and Thomas Mafunga.

Mr Mafunga said: ‘Training in Malawi has given me good exposure to lots of varied conditions and diseases, which has helped develop my clinical practice. It has also inspired me and I have developed a great passion for the profession.

‘Physiotherapy is very important in Malawi and benefits people by providing civic education to the communities on the preventable causes of disabilities as well as other diseases, providing treatment to different conditions and in so doing helping to prolong life and enhance individual ability. This will help to accelerate development in our country.’

After graduating Mr Mafunga intends to specialise in paediatric physiotherapy and study at PhD level.

Speaking about her future career aspirations fellow graduate Ms Devwe said: ‘My interest in physiotherapy is in paediatrics and I hope to specialise in that area in future. I want to work here in Malawi to serve my people and I hope to take part in developing other physiotherapists as a lecturer one day.’

Ms Lille added that: ‘Physiotherapy can have a great impact on restoring function and therefore reducing poverty in developing countries, but this is all dependent on such countries being able to train physiotherapists.’

Medic to Medic relies on regular donations. For more information, visit www.medictomedic.org.uk or email medictomedic@gmail.com

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by Robert Millett

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