Dr. Nicholas Lenge Katwamba, UNV Specialist Anesthesiologist at Zomba Central Hospital, standing next to a new ventilator donated by Medical Aid International. (UNV, 2012)

UNV Doctor secures donation of medical equipment for Malawi hospital

For UNV Specialist Anesthesiologist Dr. Nicholas Lenge Katawamba (DRC) at Zomba Central Hospital in Malawi, having only one ventilator in the four-bed ICU was one of the greatest challenges he faced in assisting patients. Using his networks, he  connected the hospital with a volunteer organization in the UK which collects good quality used medical equipment in Europe and sends it to developing countries where it can continue to save lives.

The shortage of medical equipment and supplies is one of the greatest challenges facing the 67 UNV Doctors who serve in Malawi to support the Government in delivering basic health care services. 

“Without equipment and supplies, a hospital is defenseless in the constant struggle to combat diseases, heal people and save lives,” says Dr. Nicholas Lenge Katwamba (Democratic Republic of the Congo), UNV Specialist Anesthesiologist at Zomba Central Hospital.

Although the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit has four beds, until recently it had only one ventilator, the life support machine key that sustains patients in critical condition. Only one patient was able to use the ventilator at a time, even while other patients may have needed it.  This sometimes resulted in the loss of a life that could have been saved.

The shortages made it difficult for Dr. Katwamba both to assist patients in the Intensive Care Unit and to carry out capacity building in the Department of Anesthesia.

Seeking a way to solve the ventilator shortage, Dr. Katwamba used his networks to connect Zomba Hospital with Medical Aid International (Med-Aid), a volunteer organization which supports health care in developing countries. The UK based organization collects good quality used medical equipment in Europe and sends it where it can go on to save lives.

Tim Beacon, Med-Aid’s Director, assisted in arranging the donation of desperately needed equipment to the hospital.  Med-Aid acquired funding from donors in the United Kingdom which then was used to purchase and ship the needed equipment to Zomba Central Hospital in Malawi in early 2012.

“Although we only requested a ventilator,  we were very excited to discover that  Medical Aid International managed to send us two ventilators and their accessories, as well as two cardiac monitors, stethoscopes, laryngoscopes, blood pressure monitors and much more” reported Dr. Katwamba with excitement.

With the arrival of the two ventilators, the Zomba Central Hospital ICU is now able to have three patients simultaneously on life support machines and save their lives! Thanks to UN Volunteers who not only share their skills, knowledge and time, but also take initiatives to support the institutions they serve, what they secure for their beneficiaries is sometimes without price.