A milestone: hearing screening for newborns
One of the audiologists is Chiponde Kamuzu, whose responsibilities include neonatal screening: newborns have been screened in the ABC Community Clinic every day since the end of 2016. Kamuzu works carefully and patiently while also advising parents on general hearing matters. The equipment he requires has been supplied by the Hear the World Foundation and his staff receive appropriate training at the clinic. An agreement has also been made with Kamuzu Central Hospital, the biggest healthcare institution in Lilongwe, for neonatal hearing screening – “a welcome and important step for hearing healthcare in Malawi,” as Elena Torresani, Head of the Hear the World Initiative, says. They hope to gradually expand the services available, ultimately offering neonatal screening at as many maternity clinics as possible, with the option of transferring babies to one of the two audiological clinics if there is any cause for concern.
The foundation has donated an OEA machine to the hospital in Lilongwe for these screenings, and a further two OAE devices have been earmarked to help establish neonatal hearing screening programs in other clinics as well. Thanks to this early identification of hearing loss, pediatric audiological care in Malawi has come on in leaps and bounds: “Our aim is to spot babies with hearing loss as early as possible and to offer them audiological care at the earliest opportunity. That will be a milestone in audiological healthcare in Malawi,” explains Ora Buerkli, who sits on the Hear the World’s foundation’s board.
A clinic run by Malawians for Malawians
The plan is for the ABC Hearing Clinic team to work even more independently in future. The experts from overseas are due to return home and the Australian management team will be able to step back from day-to-day operations, handing over the clinic to local administrators – but Sonova’s financial, material and technical support will continue.
“Malawi is an excellent example of what can be achieved over the course of a few years. This kind of work requires patience and you can’t expect results overnight. I hope we’ll be able to continue our work as we have done so far – there’s certainly plenty of demand,” says Elena Torresani. And the experts will indeed be coming back – amongst other things, to supervise the next generation of audiologists, who began their training in August. Local expertise is essential to ensure top-quality, sustainable audiological healthcare in Malawi. “We are Malawians, and no one understands Malawians like we do – so we are delighted that we are now able to look after our own people ourselves,” says Fletcher Chisalipo, an audiologist at the ABC Hearing Clinic.
There is no mistaking Fletcher’s enthusiasm for audiology and his work at the ABC Hearing Clinic. He has completed a Master’s degree at Manchester University, funded by the Hear the World Foundation – an investment that is paying off. “With our support, we want to do our bit to ensure audiological expertise stays in the country and bears fruit, securing long-term, quality healthcare for Malawians that is delivered by local experts,” says Elena Torresani. “The creation of promising job opportunities for the local community is a welcome by-product.”