Malawi Trip April 2022 – Report 3

Malawi Trip April 2022 – Report 3 – Has the equipment arrived safely?

Having recently returned from Malawi, Geoff Yeldham has written about the successes of the April 2022 trip. This is the third of four reports. Report 1 – Mulanje Mission Hospital. Report 2- Existing eye units. Report 4 – St Montfort School

Transporting medical equipment to Malawi is difficult. The equipment is delicate, expensive and often very heavy. It has to travel 7000 miles or more from Cardiff, depending on the route taken. Although some smaller items can be taken by air, the majority has to be transported by land or sea.

We have previously experienced the disappointment of finding that equipment is broken when it is unpacked in Malawi. The more expensive items are often purchased second hand by the charity and although we make sure that they are sturdy and in good condition at the time of sending, if something does get damaged it can be difficult to source a replacement part. When one of the small prisms in the viewing system of an operating microscope arrived broken a few years ago we were incredibly fortunate to be given another that the manufacturers took from a microscope they were decommissioning. 

Andrew had been storing some equipment including an operating microscope and a YAG laser in Malawi, which had been shipped over prior to the pandemic and were now earmarked for the new clinic in Mulanje. He had been concerned by the appearance of the containers on arrival and was anxious to test that they were functioning correctly. We spent a morning cleaning, checking and reassembling the equipment and were pleased to find that everything was intact and in full working order. The items have now been collected by the team from Mulanje Mission Hospital and are ready to use once the clinic opens, hopefully towards the end of this year.

Sight 2020 is exploring new ways of bringing medical devices into Malawi. Back in November we packed up a lot of equipment which the charity had been accumulating in Cardiff  and had it taken to the Bananabox Trust depot in Dundee. The Bananabox Trust is a Scottish charity formed in 2017 which aims to reduce poverty in Malawi by transporting “necessary and needed” items to the country via containers. This is a more secure way of importing equipment than sending it over land, but shipping containers are very large and it would take us many years to fill one on our own. The Bananabox Trust allows other charities to pay for a portion of a container, which means they can send five containers a year to Malawi, while significantly reducing the cost for each individual charity.

We had hoped that the equipment would have arrived in Malawi by the time of our visit, but unfortunately this was delayed as the Bananabox Trust encountered some difficulties with the size of the container and their shipping line. The container is now on its way to Malawi and was off the coast of Portugal at the time of the last update. We are hopeful that it will arrive within the next two months, ready for our next planned trip in November, and that this will prove to be a safe and reliable way of transporting things in future.

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