Friends of Sick Children in Malawi

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  • Babies are no longer crammed 4 to a cot
  • A new mother in the maternity unit
  • Wheelchairs get children to school
  • A corner chair
  • Ironman competition in Wales
  • Kangaroo Mother Care & Neonatal Intensive Care Units
  • Knitting tiny hats and clothes for premature babies

April 2015

Kangaroo Care and the new Neonatal unit

I am pleased to report that both the Kangaroo Care and Neonatal Intensive Care extensions are going well. We are currently out of the Kangaroo Care area while it is being refurbished but will back again very soon. There is not much that makes for good photos right now, unless you are into building sites ....... but here are a few anyway......from the outside and then underneath from the inside.

Kangaroo Care Ward

Kangaroo Ward

Kangaroo Care Being Refurbished
Kangaroo Care being refurbished

Neo Natal Unit Taking Shape
New natal ward taking shape

...............and why the expansion is needed

Reasons for upgrade



For these new units, new Vital Signs Monitors with appropriate child suitable accessories are being procured here in the UK and being airlifted to Malawi for the new wards. 

A VSM unit with accessories, plus the airlift costs, comes to about £1,200 when we procure and send them in threes (most cost efficient way). Thanks to all those who have already donated money for this and if anyone would like to help with this equipment please contact me in the usual way.

Also, Dr Kondwani Kawaza (left) is about to go to South Africa for

sub-specialist training in neonatology (small baby care). He has been instrumental in the CPAP device development and expansion across Malawi. (Followers will remember the GSK-Save the Children Global Award won for this innovation in child healthcare). The overall aim is that we’ll have the biggest and best neonatal unit in Malawi, and one of the biggest on the continent of Africa!

One-Stop Centre for Victims of Abuse

At this unique centre we are now seeing adult women as well as girls/kids come to the centre. We’ve made a push through the Obstetricians to refer children who are pregnant. Our youngest pregnant girl is 11 and ‘married’!!

The good news is that Malawi has just passed a law banning marriage under 18 – a big step forward in protecting young girls. 

The One Stop Centre was a focus location during the recent launch of the ‘Violence against children’ Survey published by UNICEF.

You might want to check out 

The following is an extract from a letter Neil Kennedy wrote to supporters in his native Ireland.

"Two out of every three people in Malawi experience violence as a child. By the age of 18, 21.8% of girls and 14.8% of boys are sexually abused; 64.5% of boys are physically abused. In two thirds of the episodes of sexual abuse, the child tells someone – but only 9% get any help from police or social welfare or medicine.

These are the shocking headline figures in the ‘Violence against children’ survey published this week in Malawi. UNICEF and the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare are using the opportunity to highlight the issues and a series of high-profile events are planned. 

Marta Santos PaisThe guest of honour for these events was the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative for Violence against Children – Marta Santos Pais. A human rights lawyer and academic, she has championed child protection work for over 30 years. She was a lead author on ‘The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child’, the key policy governing child protection all over the world. To give you an idea of just how ‘big’ a person she is, her immediate boss is Ban Ki-moon. 

So we were honoured (and a bit scared!) when the One-Stop Centre in Blantyre was chosen as one of only a few places for her to visit, squeezed between meetings with government ministers. 

UNs Marta Santos PaisThe One-Stop approach is now the government approved model for delivery of child protection services across Malawi.

She spent an hour with us, touring the centre, talking to our team, hearing stories (both good and bad) of how we help survivors of sexual violence.

It was, in short, a brilliant visit. She was insightful, encouraging and friendly. She was full of enthusiasm for what was going on – ‘inspirational’, ‘a real good news story’ – and left telling us she would work to ensure that by the end of the year, the planned training for 18 more centres would take place. She gave me her business card, and told me to keep in touch on progress!”

Pictures: UN’s Marta Santos Pais being shown around the One Stop Centre

Wheelchairs and Corner Chairs

Little did I imagine when I reported on the 100th wheelchair in my last newsletter that I would be reporting in this, the next one, that we would have passed 150! This project and the many ‘dividends’ that result from funding even just one wheelchair has really captured the interest of many supporters. Thanks to all those who continue to support this initiative and I must give John Humphrys and his Kitchen Table Charities Trust a particular mention; not only have they been big supporters from the outset but have recently awarded us more funds such that we have enough to soon take the total to 190 mobile children ...............onwards to 200!

The World Health Organization (WHO) puts wheelchair needs at 1% of the population, which means that in Malawi up to 200,000 people may need wheelchairs, half of whom will be children.........................100,000. 

So, our 190 may seem small in comparison but you have to start somewhere!

Such has been the success of this project and such is the demand generated by the workshop’s growing reputation that Robster, the workshop manager, is looking for funds to extend the workshop. Whilst we are looking for funds for the build, Robster is developing some marketing materials to try to raise funds from more charitable sources to help meet the demand.

Conrer chairThe extension to the workshop is going to cost around £22,500.

To make a wheelchair (right) to a child’s specific needs costs only £85 to a UK taxpayer with Gift Aid or £106.25 if not.

Corner chairs (left) are £20 to a UK taxpayer with Gift Aid or £25 if not. 

Comparing Malawi with the UK and USA

I am often asked how Malawi compares with the rest of the world and the one that most of you reading this will be familiar with, so I have reproduced below a table I keep current and often use in presentations. 

I hope you find it illuminating.





Size (000’s of sq km)





Population (millions)




% of population under 18





GDP per capita-a relative measure of wealth

£ 540

£ 22,380

£ 33,100


Doctors per 50,000 people




Nurses per 50,000 people








Child mortality per 1,000 live births <1 year











Maternal mortality per 100,000 births






Life expectancy Male/Female





Health spend per head

£ 45

£ 2,080

£ 5,900

Sources: CIA World Book, World Bank, UNICEF, WHO

Team visit from Birmingham Children’s Hospital

Continuing their 10 years+ partnership link with us, a link which includes 6 month nurse visits and doctor visits of varying lengths, a team from Birmingham Children’s Hospital paid a short visit recently during which paediatric consultant Mandy Goldstein delivered a one week course to the local nurses helping them to improve their skills in recognising and responding to sick children. The course was well received and appreciated by the nurses.

BIG Challenge to raise money for FOSC Nurses

Regular followers will know that occasionally this newsletter and our website will give a shout-out to someone undertaking a big challenge on our behalf. This has to be the biggest challenge yet! 

Simon Cowie is in the middle of a year-long challenge in the course of which he is trying to raise funds for at least one FOSC nurse for a year.

Why is it ‘BIG’? Try this for size:


January 17 – 45 miles Ultra Marathon Completed (in a very good time)
February 7 – 16 km Trail Run Completed 
May 4 - 26.2 miles Milton Keynes Marathon Good luck Simon for this weekend!
May 31 - 110 miles Cycling Sportive

August 8 – 32 miles London Triathlon (Olympic)
September 13 – 140 miles IRONMAN Triathlon, Wales

If you would like to support Simon by sponsoring him please go to the Virgin Money Giving website, put his name in the appropriate search box and you will arrive at his page where you can help.........THANKS!

Latest Container heads for Malawi

Medical supplies from Birmingham Children’s Hospital and 33 cartons (73 cubic feet) of knitted hats, jackets, blankets and other essentials for premature and normal birth babies (and families) are on the high seas heading for Malawi.

Thank you again to our incredible army of ladies all over the country who produce the most amazing quality and quantity of knitted items, sheets and other items.

Neil KennedyCongratulations!

Last but not least.............

Many congratulations to Neil Kennedy on recently being appointed Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Malawi.

This is just recognition of Neil’s enormous contribution to the development of the Medical School and the pipeline of Malawian students.

[Are there any limits to the number of hats this man can wear?]

Looking back to 2014

I am pleased to report that looking back at 2014 > 99.7p of every £1 (or cents to $) < that we received from you was applied at ‘the frontline’ in Malawi.

On behalf of everyone involved in ‘the project’ in Malawi and those many thousands of children and families who benefit from our donors’ generosity, a very big thank you and please keep supporting us to whatever extent you can.



Gordon Cowie M.B.E.

Founder and Chair of Trustees

Friends of Sick Children in Malawi

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