Settled into Blantyre: Let the prep work begin!

I’ve had a great first week in Blantyre preparing for my study! In my first few days of working at clinics in Malawi, I have been able to observe some interesting social dynamics related to child feeding and hygiene. As I had expected, most of the children have been brought in by their mothers (and are often breastfeeding throughout the appointment). However, a few children have been brought in by their fathers, which goes against the norms I’d anticipated and have observed. Another interesting factor is that it is currently harvesting season in many parts of Malawi, meaning that mothers have to be in the tea/bean/rice fields to harvest and replant and are unable to bring their children in to clinic. In one case, a granny brought in a child for this reason, but we’ve also counted many children not coming for their appointments for this reason.

Yesterday, for example, I was at Mbika, a clinic which typically sees 80 children. However, because of the harvest, 25 mothers did not bring their children in. Definitely something I hadn’t thought about.

I am also learning that patience is very much required to do research in this context. Though my research advisor and I submitted our research proposal to the Malawian ethics approval board in April, we are still waiting on it to be reconsidered (after it was sent back once with revisions). Mr. Chilumpha, who is the Malawian gentleman I am working with here, is looking for people to transcribe our interviews once they have been completed. I have talked with the other feeding clinic volunteers here to choose translators for the interviews, and I have decided to use the clinic nurses we bring with us as my translators.

Small steps towards the actual interview process, but it is teaching me patience, and I am staying very busy working daily at the clinics taking measurements of and processing children who come out for appointments!

African rush hour traffic

African rush hour traffic on the way to clinic!