I arrived early this afternoon in Lilongwe (capital of Malawi) after a full 24 hours of travel from Boston to JFK to JoBerg (I'm a cool local now) to Lilongwe. South Africa Air is great.
I'm here to work for the summer for MaiKhanda (translates to "mother and baby" in Chichewa, the official language along with English). They are full funded by The Health Foundation (UK) and also partners with The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (US), Women and Children First (UK), Cincinnati Children's Hospital (US), and University College London (UK).
MaiKhanda has been working since 2006 here to improve maternal health and infant mortality by rolling out quality improvement initiatives all over the country. The results are promising but it's also proving to be quite a challenge here, more so than it's been in other places, making them look harder at complicating factors and paradoxes in healthcare delivery and results that appear here.
They have a central office not too far from the airport where I will spend most of my time. Malawi is divided into 3 regions (North, Central, South), each of which is divided into districts. I'm staying with one of the staff here who has graciously welcomed me into his family's beautiful home also in Lilongwe. I'll be taking field trips to various hospitals around the country during my stay as well as government organizations in order to achieve my goal: gather relevant health data so that MaiKhanda can have a comparison group and measure the effect they've had on maternal health and infant mortality here in Malawi.
My first impression as I landed is that it's a beautiful country, very green right now. I can't tell from what I've seen so far in the capital (not the largest city and really more of a suburb) that this is one of the poorest countries in the world with a majority living on less than $1 a day. I couldn't believe it when I learned the life expectancy is hovering around 36 years! This is mainly due to it's status as one of the highest HIV prevalent areas in the world. Everyone has been extremely nice and peaceful.