Doctors Worldwide

Why I walked for hours in labour: Zainubu, Aisha and Fatima’s Stories

In February 2018, Doctors Worldwide carried out an assessment of local clinics in Mangochi, Malawi, leading us to develop our ‘Health System Strengthening’ project. We spoke to three local mothers to hear their stories on how difficult access to quality healthcare was in the region before we began.


Zainabu is a 23 year old mother living in the Mangochi district. When we spoke to her, she had travelled for three hours on foot, because she did not have enough to pay 374 Kwacha (40p) to take the minibus. On her arrival, she had to wait another 2 hours before a clinical officer could see her for an appointment. At the time, there was one clinical officer serving every thousand people in Mangochi.

Her appointment lasted only 2 minutes, wherein she complained of her aches and pains and tried again to obtain some ointment for her baby’s leg. This was her third visit, and her baby had an open sore on its leg which had been present for over two months. The clinic still hadn’t been able to replenish its stock, and she couldn’t afford the 1,400 Kwacha (£1.50) to buy it from elsewhere. Dejected, she was prescribed simple painkillers for herself and left to make the long walk home, determined to return again in a few weeks.

When we asked her, Zainabu said that she was happy there was merely a free clinic at all.


When we spoke to her, Aisha was unsure of her age. She had not received any formal education, and guessed herself to be between 26 and 28 years old. She had walked for just under three hours from her home to the Labana mobile testing clinic, where she waited amongst 170 other patients for five hours, to see one clinical officer who was trying to help them all. Aisha was worried her baby may have AIDS, as it was running a high fever.

The Labana clinic, however, had no HIV/AIDS testing facility. Despite this being a fairly simple and inexpensive test, the lack of resources available to the Labana clinic rendered it without this key treatment.  She told us that when she had fallen into labour, the nearest maternity ward was four hours away on foot. She struggled to make it whilst fighting her contractions, and was refused admittance until she paid the 2,800 Kwacha (£3) for delivery. She told us that she desperately wished the mobile clinics had maternity facilities.


Due to her lack of education, Fatima did not understand the gravity of the diagnosis when the Clinical officer at Makanjira clinic told her that her baby was HIV positive. Makanjira clinic had no anti-retroviral facilities, and couldn’t provide any level of support and counselling to help manage her babies treatment. Fatima was referred to a Ministry of Health clinic several miles away, without a full understanding of her situation.

Since our project in Malawi began, we have seen a vastly marked improvement in the quality of Healthcare accessible by rural communities. With your magnanimous donations, we were able to provide training for medical staff such as HIV testing, provide ongoing support for 4 rural clinics that now give quality healthcare to over 10,000 patients per month. We were also able to support the opening of  a local maternity unit by providing much needed nurses and midwives, which now delivers 25 healthy babies every month, and administers both prenatal and postnatal checks.

We are able to continue this hard work, and provide a life changing service to people like Fatima, Zainabu and Aisha because of your donations, and volunteers like you. Together, we serve these communities by providing them with the essential access to quality healthcare they require to determine healthier and happier futures.

To donate, click here, or find out how you can help here.

Nathan Hill

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