Thursday, 28 August 2008

Certificate of Appreciation

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) has honoured me with a certificate of appreciation; this was done in Buenos Ares Argentina.

There were over 800 invited guests from all over the world; and the whole week was a very exciting one.

I had to do 3 presentation; one was about the Research I doing in Malawi and how we hope it will change the lives of blind children; the second one was about my research related experiences in spending time in London UK and how I think the training has benefited me ;and lastly I had to display a poster of the filed work that was done in Ngabu ,Chikwawa District Malawi .

Buenos Ares is a big town ;with roads having more than 10 lanes ; it is an expensive town as there currency (Peso) is very strong (1 USD= 3 Peso);Well I bought a Polo jacket for about 600 peso (USD 200) there and I regret because I could have saved that money .Everyone talks about Tango here; there is a culture show about Tango dancing but I will not tell you exactly what it is .But I have bought a souvenir in remembrance of it .

IAPB meetings are held once very 4 years and the last one was held in Dubai in 2004.
IAPB is responsible for monitoring all the Blindness prevention Programmes in the world.

This certificate will be displayed in my little office in Malawi .Its for all those eye patients whose sufering keep me going and without whom my credibility would not be known.

Isn’t that good that I at least got something from Argentina?

Don’t you think I am lucky ? Who could have known that the same primitive bush living boy will be visiting such a place ?

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Wednesday, 27 August 2008

When am I leaving Malawi for good?

Honestly I do not know how to tackle this topic .I am frequently asked that with my qualifications and experience as a specialist Doctor I could be making much more money elsewhere than still wasting time in Malawi and writing about rural Malawi .So why don’t I leave? I suppose I am a coward; not willing to take the first step and not willing to contribute to the brain drain in Malawi .having to more than 10 developed countries in all the continents I should have stayed now. Well I brew up in the early nineties when I studied medicine in Australia ; stayed there for half a decade and still decided to come back to Ezondweni , Mtwalo , Mzimba.Now I am much more used to living in poverty in Malawi (and even do enjoy the poverty) that I do not have strong reasons why I would want to leave.

Do you think I should leave and make more money elsewhere? Is my stay making any difference ?
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Kachebere Major Seminary in Mchinji

I have come to see this famous place in Malawi where all catholic priests and bishops train ;and while I am here am told I cant take any pictures. But why? Well they do not to expose this institute to the outside world for fear of the unknown. After urging with them for a few minutes and convincing them that I am of no harm; and that my interest is in community eye health I have been allowed to take a few pictures .The institute is allocated on a very hill area and the scenery is beautiful. I am told Kachebere is the name of the river that I just crossed.

I have been touched by the seriousness of this place ;am standing wondering ; and I am wondering whether I should stop saving eye sight and think of joining the school so that I can eventually be serving souls. Have I been called? Well I have spent a the whole of my life in school I am told it will take me another 5 or so years to complete the course as a priest so I will ignore the calling this time; but may be take it later .
Enjoy the scene. And if you happen to visit Mchinji in Malawi make an effort to see this place.

Did you know that my job /Work has taken me to every district and also to many many countries and continents outside Malawi ?

Don’t you think I am lucky ?

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Tapiwa my daughter 2 years later

While away from Malawi I am thinking of my daughter and how I am missing her . Because of my constant work related trips I do not get to see much of her ; I wish I could spend more time with her. I remember it was only 2 years ago when she was weighing like a loaf of bread but now you cant say anything to her; she grown to be a bubbly girl.
And he behaves like me in a lot of ways ; but smiles like the mother .Here she is ;at our rented house in Blantyre , Malawi

What do think of her ?Does she look like she is from Mtwalo,Ezondweni,Mzimba,Malawi ?
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I like Brazil better than Argentina

I like Brazil better than Argentina

Today I am writing from Sao Paulo in Brazil. The football culture is so high here that very screen that one sees around is displaying football.I am visiting my ophthalmologist friends ;Prof Carlos Arieta and Cecilia Nakanani both of whom work and teach at Sao Paulo in Argentina .I met Prof Carlos last year in Nampura ,Mozambique when we went there to conduct the first VISION 2020 planning workshop for Nampura .Cecilia on the other hand visited London in 2006 and we met there.
I have a bit of problem adjusting to due time difference (it is 12 noon here but I am told its 6 pm in Malawi); and the food is different here –so I have developed diarrhoea (travellers diarrhoea).

I have to go as I need to find some medicine.

Why cant you
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if you need to know what has brought me here.

Well as usual I am a globe trekker. Imagine I have come straight from Kayesa inn in Mchinji.

Well , I haven’t seen much of the USA ; I was only in transit while passing through JFK.
I have been asked to talk about the survey so I will give the trachoma presentation tomorrow.
Got go; have to email my family home!!

What this first Trachoma survey of such a big magnitude in Malawi?

Well for an eye survey with large number of people such as this; may be it’s the first one in Malawi. This time we had nine vehicles and a total number of 30 people .Small surveys have been done in the past in Chikwawa, Nsanje and Salima .You can clear see that during the training of the teams thee were many people. Prof Robin Bailey from London school of Hygiene and tropical Medicine ,UK and Dr Sam Abbenyi from International Trachoma initiative(ITI ), New York USA were the two external people that joined us during the survey. It was a fantastic experience for all of us.

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for your comments .

Mchinji Malawi

Unless you have been to Mchinji; you will not be able to understand clearly what I am talking about but may be able to enjoy the pictures. The truth is that despite many problems people in the villages express so much happiness; much more than we would imagine!!! they don’t care about what time it is ; whether the Taliban would have bombed another city or which party will win the next elections. Well their focus is mainly on survival mechanisms; what do I eat today; where will I sleep and can I get a meal for tomorrow. They are not as depressed as most of us (worrying about mortgage payment ; car spares or bills to pay) and this is noticed by the smile the kids and the adults express when we visit them. I keep on wondering why are we bothering finding out whether Trachoma is a problem for them because atleast they experession shows that it is not. But I am here with my Research team to examine up to around 10000 children and adults and look for evidence of Trachoma infections .We are spending a whole day in the field walking from house to house and examining people in their homes .Name a place in Mchinji ( Mikundi, Chioshya, Tembwe, Kaigwazanga, Gumba ,Kapiri e.t.c) I have been there .I have been Mkanda , the place where the most popular person in Malawi (David Madona Banda ) comes from and have seen the major constructions taking place at the Orphanage where Madona got her son ; a clear indication that her adopting David Bannda has indeed changed lives of many other orphaned children in the same Ophranage. Quote me wrong ; but I am not a politician ;I am a community Eye Specialist reporting on what I have seen during my field visit.

Next time you want to visit any place in Mchinji ; Email me!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Am now in Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America

Today I am in Argentina.
Do you want to guess what I am doing here?
The streets of Buenos Aires are very busy; its midnight but there is still much noise.
After the trachoma survey in Chikwawa and Mchinji I have decided to take time off and visit Brazil and Argentina. How you been there?
Do you now believe that I travel a lot both within Malawi and outside ?
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for your comments .

When did Trachoma Survey in Malawi start ?

The external facilitators form the UK and USA arrived in Malawi during the last week of July 2008 ;and we had training of the team from 28th July-1nd August .They were 9 paired teams of clinical officers (18 in total ) and each team had a supervisor. We piloted the research in Blantyre at Chileka Health Centre and near the surrounding villages and proceeded to data collection in Chikwawa on 2nd august (straight after the training & pilot) and stayed in Chikwawa for 8 days .we went everywhere (Chang’ambika,Chithumba,Chapanganga,Dolo,Ngabu,Nchalo,e.t.c ) faced many challenges and proceeded to mchinji on 10th of august for another 8 days of data collection . By the time we got to Mchinji the teams had a lot of experienced so it was practically a bit easier in Mchinji .Want to know what challenges we faced? I will write about them later .I should point out that this was one of the few larger studies in the Eye field that has been done in Malawi while led by a local Malawian as a Principal Investigator and I am proud to have been the one.

With a budget of over USD 50,000; Should the Trachoma survey have been done at all?
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for your comments .

Trachoma Prevalence survey in Malawi 2008

I have a lot to write as I have not been blogging so I do not even know where to start explaining about this survey. Anyway I am the Principal Investigator of this Research but I have been supported by expertise form the London School of Hygiene and Tropical medicine(LSHTM) UK ;International Trachoma Initiative (ITI),New York USA, Department of Statistics ,Chancellor College ,University of Malawi , Zomba ; College of Medicine Research Support centre and Sight Savers International Malawi country office. In particular I would like to thank Dr Tobias Chirwa from Chancellor College who worked to ensure that the questionnaires were user friendly; and Dr Linda Kalilani from Research Support Centre who agreed to manage the data. The two of you have made my life much easier .Earlier this year ( in April ) as I sat in that conference room at World Health Organisation(WHO) in Geneva Switzerland listening to the challenges our friends in Zambia had in doing such a similar study; I was wondering whether I was competent enough to be the Principal Investigator but with the support I got from various people in Malawi my work was made much easier and I am proud that the Research has gone very well. How can I forget the chairman of the National health Research committee in Malawi ;who upon hearing the urgency to do this study ;approved our proposal within 2 weeks of submission.
Well I do not know whether any of this stuff makes sense to you, but
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for any comments .

Malawi Zambia -Mchinji Border

Where do I even start blogging? For the past few weeks I have been to the worst of the remote areas in Malawi; trying to identify eye cases of Trachoma .Trachoma is the oldest reported eye infectious disease (reported during the ancient Egyptian times); that causes acute conjunctivitis which if not properly treated can lead to long term consequences like problems with eye sight and complete loss of vision.

I have been commissioned by National Prevention of Blindness Committee and the Ministry of Health to find out whether Trachoma is still a significant public health problem as defined by the World Health Organisation. My role as the Principal Investigator is to coordinate this big study in Malawi .In order to do this I have recruited a total research team of 30 people (10 vehicles) and organised a one week training where participants will be taught how to conduct this research. Most participants are Ophthalmic Clinical officers; and I have taken all of them from Nsanje to Chitipa. In addition I have engaged senior personnel as supervisors (Programme Manager and Lectures) have also engaged the College of Medicine Research support Centre to back me up with data management.
Will all these people and a budget of over USD 50,000 you can see why I have been missing from the blog site. Infact I have had very little sleep since May when I started seriously preparing for this research.
Today I am blogging from the Malawi –Zambian border; the Mchinji border and I am just facing Chipata .Well; why am I here? I want to find out whether Trachoma is still a problem in this area.
Next time you want to visit any place in Mchinji ; Email me!