Malawi: „The Boat of Life” for the Health Center on Chisi Island

One of the main goals of our activities in Malawi is to reduce maternal and infant mortality and improve healthcare on Chisi Island in Zomba district of Malawi.

Chisi is a small island in the middle of Lake Chilwa, the second-largest lake in Malawi. This island is sometimes referred to as the most remote place in the country. It is home to over 5,000 Malawians who have to sail in traditional wooden canoes to access healthcare or social services across the waters that are dirty and hazardous, with powerful waves on windy days, making the journey risky, especially at night. The fare for the journey is an additional burden for people living mostly below the poverty line.

The situation for pregnant women is exceptionally challenging here – the island has only a small health center with no midwife, and nurses rotate on a monthly basis. The center has only three rooms: a registration area, a procedure room, and a post-procedure room. The rooms are small, with no privacy during childbirth. There is no space in the health center for pregnant women to wait for delivery, so they wait at home. This means that when labor begins, they must traverse many kilometers, often in hilly terrain. If complications arise during childbirth, the laboring woman must be transported to a mainland hospital, a journey that takes 1.5 to 2 hours in a canoe – long enough for anything to happen. Stories of pregnant women giving birth in boats and newborns dying in the middle of the lake are common on the island.

In addition to supplying the health center with sterile birthing kits (MAMA KIT) and installing solar panels, a faster means of transportation became necessary. In March 2023, we funded a motorised boat for the health center, reducing the time of crossing Lake Chilwa to a maximum of 20 minutes, instead of 1.5 hours! The blue “Boat of Life” is available 24/7, saving the lives and health of patients on Chisi Island. It also provides quick and safe transportation for healthcare workers.

This life-saving project was possible thanks to the generous support of the ROTARY CLUB OF BOW from New Hampshire, USA, and the assistance of Frontrunners Development, Honorary Consul of Malawi in Israel, Rotaract Club of Zomba, and many other compassionate individuals. Life jackets and necessary rescue equipment for the “Boat of Life” were founded by four wonderful Polish schools that collaborate with us. Thank you!

There is still much to be done on Chisi Island – the health center needs thorough renovation, modernization, and additional equipment, as well as a source of safe drinking water. Funds are needed for the tuition of midwife candidates who would like to work on the island after completing their training. Let’s join hands – we believe that together we can change the lives of the Chisi community for the better!

Articles about the project can be found in “The Ambassador” and Frontrunners Innovate .