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Info badly needed about Malawi

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I will be working in Lilongwe, Malawi this summer for an NGO and need some objective info about the medical situation. My parents are naturally freaking out and think I need to bring syringes, face masks - someone even suggested my own blood supply! They prodded me to email my supervisor there, a Jesuit nun, about this and her response was (as to be expected) a little offended - she said something along the lines of, "Lilongwe may not be a Western capital but it's not the bush." Are the hospitals there well-equipped enough that I don't need to worry about bringing my own medical supplies? I would imagine so but I have never been to Africa so I have no idea. I obviously don't mean to offend but there is no reason to take whatever precautions make sense.


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    I spent 4 months in Lilongwe working with an NGO. It was back in 1996, so I caution you that my info is not at all current.

    I took no added precautions save from making sure that I had a good supply of my malaria meds, a tetanus shot, typhoid, and yellow fever and exercised good common sense regarding what I ate/drank and always making sure I had mosquito netting and coils -- as I spent a fair amount of time in the villages. I also went with a full prescription worth of Cipro.

    That said, this was just before the HIV/AIDS epidemic took root. I did make sure, however, to take out emergency insurance (which I got at a reduced rate through the NGO) which meant that I could be airlifted out in case of emergency/accident. If you are going through a university program they should also be able to advise.

    To be on the "extra" safe side, you should simply consult the State Department web site. And if the NGO has an int'l office, I would direct my questions there to avoid the awkwardness with the field staff. Upon arrival, the embassy in Lilongwe should help with advice for local doctors/medical advice. While the hospitals may not be great, there are a lot of capable clinics and medical professionals.

    I did later spend a lot of time later on in other countries where HIV/AIDS was endemic, but I never carried blood or syringes. I am sure that others will offer more current and perhaps more cautionary advice. As for me, I worried most about robberies as home invasions were becoming more common and as I did (and do) in Africa I most worried about road accidents.

    Good luck and make sure that you try and squeeze in a weekend trip to the Lake. It is lovely and very relaxing.


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