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UNILIA students invent smart stick to aid the visually impaired

Mwale demostrates how stick works to Dr Chilima

Students from University of Livingstonia (Unilia) have devised a sensory walking stick that will help people with impaired vision to detect any objects in their way when they are walking.

The new innovation which is called Smart Stick was revealed Friday in Mzuzu during Unilia’s Computer Engineering, Public Health, and Food Security and Nutrition Symposium.

Among others, the stick has been devised with the ability to detect moisture, distance and light feelings for the people which will help them to walk without any difficulties.

Fourth year Computer Engineering student Tikhala Mwale, who made a presentation of the Smart Stick at the symposium, said the innovation marks the beginning of a new chapter for people who have sight challenges.

“This is a breakthrough for people with blindness challenges. They will no longer struggle to walk on their own as the stick guides them wherever they go. We have devised this stick in such a way that it uses three feelings of moisture, distance and light which enables them to automatically receive audio directions whenever they are walking even during the night,” he said.

Mwale said among others, the stick uses locally available cell batteries which make it even affordable to people who live in remote areas where there is no electricity.

He explained that the new innovation would help students with impaired vision in their education pursuit as they would be encouraged to go to school on their own without the help of others.

Director of Health Technical Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr Benson Chilima expressed delight and praise for the students’ innovation.

“This clearly demonstrates that as students who will be graduating in a days’ time, you are ready to help the country offer solutions to a number of challenges that the country is facing”.

“The industry out there needs graduates who are valuable and ready to give solutions that they have learnt from the four years they have been studying,” he said.

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New Condom Strategy and revised STIs Management guideline launched

MOH Muluzi symbolic cutting off of ribbon at launch

The Ministry of Health on Friday launched a new National Condom Strategy and a revised Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Management Guidelines.

This comes amidst a report that over 260 000 Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) were recorded in the country in 2016.

The new National Condom Strategy aims at improving condom availability and use amongst sexually active persons which government says still remain inconsistent. Current statistics show only four condoms are being per person per year.

The new Sexually Transmitted Infections Management Guidelines contains revised treatment regimens and how to deal with new emerging syndromes.

Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi officially launched the two documents at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe.

He said the two documents would help government guide the coordination and policy direction in the fight against new STIs, HIV and unintended pregnancies.

Muluzi said despite the country having registered a success in managing STIs; there is still a lot to be done in order to lower the infections.

He said this was the right time to ramp up efforts in ensuring that more Malawians are using protection (condoms) and enjoy the health benefits associated with that, especially amongst the youth.

“I think it is extremely important we should have this conversation especially amongst young people who are sexually active because they need protection.

“That why we felt it was extremely important to improve in terms of disseminating the importance of making sure that those of us that are sexually active are using condoms to protect ourselves against STIs, HIV and unintended pregnancies,” the Minister explained.

Muluzi said government recognizes the conflict of condom use against cultural and religious beliefs.
He urged traditional and faith leaders should join this conversation saying there are lessons to be learnt from other countries which have realized the importance of advocating condom use.

“But we have to recognize the sensitivities around those issues and ensure we have a very constructive conversation about how we can address these real issues affecting young people and Malawians,” Muluzi added.

The Minister bemoaned the current low statistics on condom use in the country saying this shows Malawians have very little knowledge and confidence in condoms.

“There is a notion of ‘it would not happen to me, I could continue having multiple (sexual) partners and unprotected sex’. But the reality is very different.

“That is why we are ramping up our efforts to get more people informed about the fortunes of using condoms as the best line of defense against STIs, HIV and unintended pregnancies especially on the adolescence girls who are sexually active,” he pointed out.

Director in the department of HIV and Aids in MoH, Rose Nyirenda said the Ministry is responsible in the bio- medical response for HIV is to provide policy direction for the bio- medical interventions.

According to her, STIs are one of the key areas and that condoms are one of the bio-medical interventions.

Nyirenda said the last condom strategy ended in 2013 and there was need to have a new one in order to take the message of condom use back to the people after observing that there is low condom use.

“We observed that we were having challenges in terms of people accessing condoms. So we needed to strategize on how best we can make condoms (available) in the public and private sector, for people living in both urban and rural settings.

“And also to those who will be accessing them freely and those who will be paying for them in various places like pharmacies and shops,” the Director noted.

On the revised STIs management guidelines which were last revised in 2008, she said through the World Health Organization, there have been several emerging issues that needed to be addressed.

According to her, these include the emergence of anti-microbial resistance and new infections that previously were not there like the occurring infections in the anal rectal area.

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Airtel Touching Lives CSR Initiative donates medical drugs and equipment to Nkhoma Referral Hospital

Airtel’s Chavula-Chirwa presenting some of the items to Nkhoma Hospital Management & staff members Photo Cred Chim Chisiza

Airtel’s Touching Lives CSR initiative has donated a consignment of medical drugs to Nkhoma Referral Hospital.

The consignment of medical items consisting of medicine and medical equipment is valued at MK2 million.

Speaking at the hospital on Tuesday 12th September when the items were officially handed over, Airtel’s Corporate Communications & CSR Manager, Norah Chavula-Chirwa said as a brand that is deep rooted in CSR, Airtel was constantly looking for ways to support the health and education sector with various resources.

“The call from Nkhoma came at the right time as we always seek ways to connect with our communities through various CSR activities like this that improve and promote access to quality public health care in the country.” Chavula-Chirwa explained.

The donated items comprised of digital BP machines, methylated spirit, gauze, cotton wool and latex gloves, as well as medicine like insulin, panadol, and a broad range of antibiotics.

Speaking on behalf of the hospital, Senior Medical Officer Dr. Francis Kachedwa expressed how the donation is going to impact the services at the hospital.

“This donation has addressed the medical shortfalls that we have been facing here at the hospital and will provide patients from here at Nkhoma and our other 9 health centres of Malembo, Chinthemba, Mvera, Mlanda, Chigodi, Mphunzi, Malingunde, Chiwe and Dzenza with medicine that will address and treat their various ailments,” said Dr Kachedwa.

Nkhoma hospital is one of the oldest hospitals in the central region, having recently clocked 102 years with a bed capacity of 270 and out patient daily treatment rate of up to 300 patients per day.

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Government puts in place strategies amid Bird flu threat 

Bird Flu

Government has assured the general public that all strategies are in place to ensure that the country stays free from Avian Influenza, popularly known as bird flu.

The assurance comes amidst fears of the flu carrying virus finding its way into the country through importation of poultry and poultry products following reports of an outbreak in three countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Acting Director in the Department of Livestock and Animal Health in the Ministry of Agriculture, Patrick Chikungwa, told the press in Lilongwe Thursday that the threat was real particularly due to regional cross-border trade.

He said: “The threat for Malawi is real due to presence of potential risk factors which include porous borders, large susceptible domestic birds, illegal movement of animal and animal products and relaxed surveillance after long periods of inactivity with respect to bird flu.”

He thus assured that as part of preparedness, Malawi has reactivated its taskforce and technical working group on bird flu, which would be chaired by Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development and co-chaired by Ministry of Health.

“Government has since intensified its prevention measures through enforcement of importation restrictions such as ban of poultry and poultry products from the infected countries,” Chikungwa said.

He also disclosed that Government had engaged key stakeholders such as poultry producers, importers, parks and wildlife in efforts to successfully effect the preparedness.

Chikungwa went on to say they are also strengthening diagnostic capacity for screening and confirmation of the disease and intensification of surveillance for early detection and response.

In the SADC region, the disease was first detected in the Democratic Republic of Congo followed by Zimbabwe and recently South Africa.

Government has since appealed to all Malawians to collaborate and cooperate by adhering to the set up strategies.

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BaseFlow partners with University of Strathclyde International WASH sector training 

District water officer during last years session

BaseFflow Malawi has engaged district water officers and water monitoring assistants in a hydro geology training set to take place in Scotland.

This is in a quest to address problems of inadequate skills amongst people in the Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. 

Base flow has partnered with the University of Strathclyde on a project called Climate Justice Water Futures program to implement this work in the country.

Base flow, a local organization whose aim is to improve the sustainability of ground water resources, infrastructure and technologies that access water for consumption from the water table through capacity building.

It is working hand in hand with the government to address the issue by finding solutions as well as providing alternatives in the WASH sector.

According to team leader for base flow Malawi, Muthi Nhlema, there is no adequate training provided for district water officers, water molecular assistants and other people in the Wash sector hence the need for the training.

“These people want to do their jobs better but do not get adequate training” he said.

He further added that the officers need technical skills to help them monitor and supervise water drillers, carry out important tests before a borehole is drilled but also understand the water resources and the impact it has on households.

He added that they need to have this knowledge to ensure that boreholes work adequately and do not dry up.

The 3rd delegation of 33 people who have left for Scotland include 27 government workers from tikwere house, 2 non-governmental organization members from water for people,2 private sector from ESS Enterprise,1st director for central region water board, James Mambulu, who has worked extensively in policy making and has worked with organizations UNICEF, DFID and Muthi Nhlema lead consultant for base flow.

Aside being equipped with the necessary skills to provide better services in the field, the participants are expected to engage with policy makers from Scottish Water (water board for Scotland).

The delegates are expected to be back in the country on the 17th of September 2017.

The first two delegations attended trainings last year. The first delegation was engaged in a policy making training while the second one engaged 14 district water officers in hydrogeology training as well.

Base flow is currently engaged in capacity building activities with local stakeholders to provide better WASH services in rural as well as urban areas.

The Scottish Government is funding the training-Bridgitta Flao

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Couples counselling and tesing catalyst to end HIV/AIDS by 2030-Dignitas

HIV AIDS

Dignitas International in Phalombe has described couple counselling and testing as a catalyst for ending HIV and AIDS by 2030.

District HIV and AIDS Testing Coordinator for Phalombe, Trevor Makata made the remarks on Sunday during a Media tour over a community based counselling and testing campaign that the organization is conducting in the district.

He said the organization decided to conduct the community based testing in order to give room to couples of testing and receiving HIV counseling together as it will help them understand each other and plan their lives better as a couple.

He added it was important for couples to get tested and receive HIV counselling together like in cases where the couple has been found to be HIV positive their counsellors would be able to help them understand their status whilst advising them on how to plan their lives together.

Adding to the sentiments, one of the Counsellors who took part in the campaign, Gloria Chimkango said the advice they give to a couple helps them not to break up as it happens in most cases when only one family member get tested and was found positive.

“We have seen many marriages breaking up due to results of an HIV test simply because a partner came alone for testing, and when they disclose the status to their partner they fail to understand each other on who brought the virus home,” she said.

The campaign which is being conducted in various primary schools among other things will assist in reducing the total percentage of people who are not aware of their zero statuses in the district.

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Mutharika gives TaskForce 14 days to come up with report on Lilongwe water contamination

water pipes

President Peter Mutharika has constituted a Taskforce to look into the Lilongwe Area 18 water contamination.

The task force has been given 14 days to complete and submit a report to him through Chief Secretary to Government.

Residents in the capital city area on July 18 complained that their tap water was contaminated with sewage material of which scientific investigations have proven the claims.

The water contamination brought the nation to the realization of the appalling state of sanitation in Lilongwe which is feared to have persisted for a while without authorities taking heed and correcting the situation.

A statement released and signed by Chief Secretary to Government, Llyod Muhura says Rexie Chiluzi, Chief Director in the Office of President and Cabinet will chair the task-force.

Members appointed in the task-force are Modesta Kanjaye, currently serving as director of water in the Ministry of Agriculture and Water development.

Others include Pacharo Kayira, Sphiwe Mauwa, Dr Kabuluzi and Victor Sandikonda serving as secretariat.

The members comprise of personnel from local government, justice and preventive health services.

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Cholera outbreak hits Chikwawa district

Cholera

Nine people have been admitted to Chikwawa district hospital following a Cholera outbreak.

This cholera outbreak comes barely four months after another outbreak hit the district’s two villages in the area of Paramount Chief Lundu.

Over 38 people were affected during the last outbreak.

Health authorities in Chikwawa district are encouraging communities to follow proper hygiene methods, to prevent further spread of Cholera.

Environmental Health Office the district has confirmed the development saying poor access to safe water and poor quality of sanitary facilities in villages is what has caused the recent outbreak.

There are fears that the Cholera outbreak may spread to other areas where communities do not have access to portable water supply as well as toilets.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease that can kill within hours if left untreated.

A research by the World Health Organisation, estimates that there are 1.3 to 4.0 million cases of cholera, every year.

21 000 people out of every 143 000 die worldwide due to cholera.

Most of those infected will have no or mild symptoms, and can be successfully treated with oral re-hydration solution.

Severe cases will need rapid treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

Provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to control the transmission of cholera and other waterborne diseases.

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MIE to start offering advice to sanitation institutions

water pipes

The Malawi Institute of Engineers – MIE says it wants to start offering advice to institutions that deal in the sanitation sector across the country.

The development comes in light of water contamination problem due to sewer leakage in Area 18 Lilongwe.

Residents in the area complained of fecal matter in their tap water about a month ago.

MIE Central Region Chapter Chairperson Engineer, William Nyirenda toured area 18 and said time has come that their association engages with sanitation providers on the best practices to protect humans from consuming unsafe water.

Nyirenda said the development was worrisome and as an association, they will meet to discuss and come up with recommendations that will be presented to the concerned stakeholders for action.

“We have a pool of expertise in engineering so we came here to appreciate the challenges that are being faced here on the ground, offer ideas and solutions on how these two institutions (Lilongwe water Board and Lilongwe City Council) can do to arrest the problems,” said Engineer Nyirenda.

He observed that the infrastructure in Area 18 is outdated and there is need for upgrades with the water pipes and the sewer lines.

Engineer Nyirenda said that now the two institutions and the engineer’s body have managed to visit the affected places, they will be able to make relevant recommendations having seen the challenge that caused the water contamination.

Area 18 residents complained of receiving dirty water which was also contaminated with faeces thereby rendering it unusable and unhygienic.

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Malawi to have National Alcohol Policy

Muluzi

Malawi is set to launch National Alcohol Policy which aims at regulating supply and demand of alcohol in the country in order to protect young people from excessive consumption of the substance.

Drug Fight Malawi, the country is the first in the Sub-Saharan Africa to develop and approve evidence based policy on alcohol.

The National Alcohol Policy is expected to be launched on August 18, 2017, at Kantchito Primary School Ground in Bembeke in the Area of Traditional Authority Kamenyagwaza in Dedza, at a function to be presided over by the Minister of Health, Atupele Muluzi.

Government in conjunction with Drug Fight Malawi, a local non-governmental organization advocating for reduction of drugs and alcohol abuse developed the policy.

The purpose of the policy is to support the public health-oriented and social-economic policies in reducing alcohol-attributable harm.

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