...The case for Phalombe District Hospital
The living suffer, and the dead still pay the price.
This is how Simeon Mawira, chairperson for Phalombe Multi-stakeholders Committee, sums the situation in Phalombe.
“We have never had a district hospital ever since Phalombe was declared a district hospital,” Mawira says.
However, Mawira says the situation has been compounded by the fact that the government has, since the 2007/08 fiscal year, allocated funding to go towards the construction of the hospital but nothing seems to materialise.
Letter from Phalombe residents
Feeling shortchanged, Phalombe residents have taken the initiative to follow up on what has been, or not been, happening. One of their strategies has been to write a letter, thus reads as follows:
Kuchokera ku: Phalombe Multi-Stakeholders Committee
27th May 2013
Kupita Kwa: The District Commissioner
Phalombe District Council
CHIPATALA CHACHIKULU CHA BOMA LA PHALOMBE
Ife a Phalombe Multi-stakeholders Committee tachita kafukufuku wa mavuto a mdera la boma la Phalombe, tapeza kuti tilibe chipatala chachikulu cha boma la Phalombe.
Choncho tili kukupemphani kuti mutiuzire anthu awo kuti tikomane nawo.
Bwana DC, DPD, DHO, DSWO, DCDO, Umunthu Project Ambassador, T/A Nkhumba, T/A Nazombe, t/a Jenala.
In short, this summarises the perplexity of Phalombe residents.
Promises without action
Traditional Authority (T/A) Kaduya, one of the traditional leaders concerned with delays to construct the hospital, wonders why the government is failing to make good its promise despite compensating people who used to cultivate the land allocated for the hospital.
“Now, these people cannot cultivate on that land, yet the land is staying idle,” Kaduya laments.
During the 2007/08 budget, the hospital was allocated K350 million, while K262 million went towards the same cause in the 2010/11 budget- a trend that continued to the 2012/13 national budget.
Still, shrubs thrive at the piece of land allotted for the hospital.
It is not surprising, therefore, that even T/A Nazombe and Mkhumba have joined the fray.
Nazombe says pregnant women have been highly affected, citing rising cases of women who die on their way to the hospital.
“We need a hospital as soon as possible. Our lives are in danger,” Nazombe says.
However, Phalombe District Health Officer, Dr. Alexander Chijuwa, while acknowledging that some budgetary allocations have been made towards the hospital, says plans to construct Phalombe hospital are still alive.
“From my understanding, the hospital is supposed to be constructed using funds from an international bank. I understand that there were issues to do with consultants, and this is what delayed the process,” Chijuwa says.
The DHO says after some challenges in hiring consultants, things had now reached an advanced stage, hoping that the hospital would still be constructed.
Chijuwa reveals that his office pays K5 million each month for people to access services at Holy Family Hospital.
He, however, says Holy Family is sometimes overwhelmed with patients that some are sent to Phalombe District Hospital or Zomba Central Hospital.
“In the end, you see that we spend more on fuel, taking people to Mulanje and Zomba in our ambulances. All of us will benefit from the (district) hospital,” Chijuwa says.
On why nothing has been done with the funding that has been allocated towards the construction of the hospital, Chijuwa says sometimes budget allocations are mere projections. This means that, “sometimes, the government may allocate some funding but fail to get the funds from the sources it hoped would give it the funds”.
The situation in Phalombe has prompted Diocesan Secretary for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (Blantyre Arch-Diocese) to ask Phalombe communities not to give up on the hospital.
“Since people have identified the lack of a hospital as one of the greatest challenges facing them, there is need for collaborative efforts so that this dream is realised,” Kampango says.
Kampango’s sentiments are echoed by CCJP’s National Monitoring and Evaluation Cordinator, Paul Sakanda. He says there is need to enhance citizens participation for accountable responsive governance in Malawi, lauding the people for taking the initiative.
“In the 12 districts where we are running a Tilitonse-funded project called ‘Enhanced Citizen Participation for Accountable and Responsive Governance in Malawi’, we have seen community members take necessary action to ensure that development is realised,” Sakanda says.
But, while the Phalombe people are still waiting for the day they will have a district hospital, Enock Masasa, one of the residents, says he will never get used to the idea of sending dead bodies to either Mulanje or Zomba for storage.
“Why should we, as the living, suffer, as well as the dead? It’s very unfair,” Masasa says.