The government of Malawi has declared a national emergency and, along with our partners, is asking for help. EMMS International has launched a food crisis appeal to help some of the 6.5 million people facing hunger, with a focus on the most vulnerable. Gifts to the appeal are being matched by the Scottish government.
Home-based patients are among the hardest hit. Family members who act as caregivers must also ensure the family can eat. In the face of hunger and malnutrition they are forced to choose between survival and caring for loved-ones. Care for those who are sick is unavoidably compromised.
Hunger means patients’ needs change. Food scarcity pushes up the cost of living. Food becomes the most pressing issue. Patients can be left in unbearable pain when guardians are forced to find food or extra income and can no longer visit the hospital to collect medication.
As a result, our partners are having to change their care to meet patient needs. Dr Cornelius Huwa, Medical Director of Palliative Care Support Trust (PCST) in Malawi, says:
“We are now seeing an increase in the demand for social support over and above general medical support that we offer. We carry food supplements when going for home visits. Just carrying morphine is not enough when people are hungry and in pain.”
Lack of food adds pressures to palliative care services. “Patients that are nutritionally compromised have reduced immunity, hence their ability to fight diseases is reduced. They suffer from simple infections which compound their chronic condition.” explains Dr Huwa.
People living with HIV are acutely affected as a lack of food increases non-compliance of antiretroviral drugs. Mphatso Nguluwe, Director of Livingstonia Synod AIDS Programme (LISAP), explains:
“For them to be able to take their antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, they depend on food and if food is not available we are running a risk of drug non-compliance which will lead to increased morbidity and mortality rates which are already high in the communities we serve. At the same time we should understand that ARVs reduces HIV transmission rate by at least 98% and when people stop them, it means we will have high HIV incidences. Both adults and children are at a great risk but more so children.”
EMMS International is working with PCST and others to improve palliative care across Malawi as part of a UK government funded project to increase and improve specialist education and training.
Reducing the impact of the food crisis is essential to improve palliative care. EMMS International has launched an emergency appeal to help those affected by providing food supplies to vulnerable groups and support future food production. Find out more and support the appeal.