When it comes to accessing quality healthcare services, the tale of most Malawians in hard- to- reach communities has been a story of difficulty and challenge. Through R4H, Chikondi Makawa; a courier from Thyolo has assisted in renewing hope for many Malawians. “I am happy to be working with R4H in its mission to Make the last mile the most important mile in health care delivery. I have been working with R4H as a Sample Transport courier since 2018 and I reach to 31 health facilities” Makawa explained.
R4H previously known as Riders for Health has since 2011 been implementing a Sample Transport program to deal with challenges in health care delivery. In 2011, R4H was operating in 7 districts only: Rumphi, Mzimba South, Dowa, Lilongwe, Machinga, Neno and Nsanje. Currently, STP is reaching to twenty-eight districts in Malawi.
Makawa is not the only agent of change under R4H’s Sample Transport Program. Crispine Hara from Lilongwe east is also one of the couriers who is championing the program in the central region. Hara is a courier for Bwaila District Health Office.
“Sample transport program has been a relief to a lot of people across the country. Before the implementation of this program it was a challenge for community members especially those living in hard- to- reach communities like Chimbalanga and M’bang’ombe to access diagnostic healthcare services like Tuberculosis, Covid and HIV/ AIDS testing” explained Hara. With R4H sample transport Program, this gap has been filled. Couriers pick up different clinical samples like viral load samples from health facilities to district hospital laboratories and molecular laboratories and results back to originating health facilities.
R4H Malawi delivers sample and results transport, medical waste management and road safety training nationally. R4H ensures that universal healthcare is afforded to the most vulnerable at the last mile where access to health care services is still challenged by distance, terrain, and transport. This includes improving diagnostics through the delivery and collection of clinical samples / results. Samples are transported from community health facilities to laboratories by trained R4H couriers. The results are delivered to over 764 health facilities nationwide.
The Programmes Manager Angellina Nazombe explained that the Sample Transport program is promoting a community–wide approach to addressing health equity problems which affect a lot of people in the country especially those who are in living in the hard- to- reach areas.
Reporting on the lessons learnt from the 11 years of implementing the Sample Transport Program, Levi Mzumara, Sample Transport Coordinator for R4H central region, observed that Most of R4H activities are under Ministry of Health hence involvement of government is paramount especially when it comes to decision making on new program activities and other legal requirements. In addition, being a hospitality organization, community participation is key when it comes to activity participation and project acceptance.
As the fortunes of many Malawians change for the better through the Sample Transport program, one only hopes for the continual progression of the programme to benefit more people.