For a long time, malaria has loomed as the number one killer disease in Malawi, but new data shows that injuries are causing 32 percent more deaths than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and Aids combined.
Delivering her address to a two-day National Trauma Consultative Forum in Lilongwe yesterday, Malawi Orthopaedics Association (MOA) president Maureen Sabawo said out of almost 60 percent of injuries caused by road traffic accidents, out of which 49 percent are from motorcycle taxis.
She said this was having a huge impact on the economy because three percent of the country’s gross domestic product is lost to treatment costs for the injured.
Said Sabawo: “We have a huge problem of trauma worldwide and it is equally huge in Malawi. When you look at the statistics, we are getting better with malaria, HIV and TB care, but not with injuries.”
On financing, she said that only 4.8 percent of the national health budget is allocated to injury care while 68 percent goes to other programmes.
In his presentation, Lilongwe Institute of Orthopaedics and Neurosurgery (Lion) chief executive officer Sven Young noted that last Sunday alone the facility had 20 admissions from motorcycle accidents. He highlighted the need to invest more in surgery.
Commenting on the issues raised, Ministry of Health director of curative and medical rehabilitation services George Chithope Mwale said injuries, regardless of the cause, result in temporary or permanent disabilities that need long-term care and rehabilitation, a situation that make them costly to the country both in terms of loss of care and productivity.
Ministry of Health Principal Secretary for Administration Beston Chisamile said the figures for traffic accidents as a contributor to injuries reported in hospital registries was alarming.
He said the ministry, with support from the World Bank, will conclude an Emergency Medical Services pilot project by December 2023. The project will see the country having four emergency trauma centres along the M1 between Lilongwe and Blantyre.
These centres are currently fully functional at Dedza, Ntcheu, Balaka district hospitals and Lisungwi Rural Hospital in Neno.
Health rights activist George Jobe called for increased resources in prevention and treatment of injuries.
The consultative forum is being held under the theme ‘Rethinking and creating a dynamic trauma and orthopaedic system’.