On Wednesday 1st May, Niall Rogerson and I made our way through to Edinburgh for two events that were of great relevance to the MalDent Project. The first of these was a meeting at Edinburgh City Chambers entitled ‘Further and Higher Education-led Health Partnerships’, which was hosted by the Scotland Malawi Partnership from 3.00pm – 5.25pm
The meeting was held in the Mandela Room, which had an imposing life-sized photograph of Nelson Mandela on one of its walls:
We arrived at 3.00pm and enjoyed an initial half hour of networking over sandwiches, tea and Mzuzu coffee. Paul Garside and Andy Waters from the Institute of Infection, Inflammation & Immunity at the University of Glasgow were both in the room when we arrived and it was also good to catch up with Neil Merrylees and Remus Chunda from the University of Dundee.
The meeting was chaired by David Hope-Jones, Chief Executive of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership
David Hope-Jones ran through the objectives of the meeting and how it would be structured.
After brief presentations from Stuart Brown (Deputy Chief Executive of the SMP), Kerry Chalmers (NHS Global Citizenship Programme) and Liz Grant (Edinburgh University), the bulk of the afternoon revolved around 2 minute presentations from each of the delegates. We were asked to specifically draw out:
- Key successes
- Key learning
- Ideas for enhanced collaboration and coordination
It was a fascinating afternoon with a broad range of subject specialists including, amongst others, those involved with research governance, climate science, pathology, oncology, water supply and sanitation, emergency medicine, drug discovery, tropical diseases, the non-communicable disease agenda and our own interest in oral health improvement.
Several common themes emerged:
- Working together at all levels, supported often by the Scotland-Malawi Partnership
- Linkages across projects
- Subject-specific achievements eg the Water Futures Programme managed through the University of Strathclyde
- The importance of listening to local needs
- Cultural sensitivity
- The massive potential of Malawi’s youth population
- The need for even greater connectivity between projects
Ideas for enhanced collaboration and coordination
- Improving communication between all those working on projects in Malawi
- Knowing what each other are doing
- Considering combined funding bids through multiple institutions
- Organising more meetings like the one being held today
A number of those present, ourselves included, were due to attend a second event at the Scottish Parliament at 6.00pm, so after the closing remarks from David Hope-Jones, a small fleet of taxis transported us down the Royal Mile for a meeting of the Cross Party Group on Malawi.
The meeting was convened by Liam McArthur MSP:
Liam McArthur MSP opened the meeting by welcoming everyone present. After receiving apologies and approving the minutes of the last meeting, the core business of the evening started.
The first presentation was from Professor Bob Kalin, Professor of Environmental Engineering for Sustainability, and the Director of the Climate Justice Fund Water Futures Programme. He provided an overview and update on the recent Malawi floods, which have displaced 83,000 people from their homes, leading to creation of 187 camps. The swift and generous response of the Scottish Government had made a tremendous difference to the support that could be provided. Details are available at: https://www.scotland-malawipartnership.org/news-events/all-news/malawi-floods-update/
Following Professor Kalin’s presentation, Angus Loudon, Executive Director of St John Scotland, gave a report on the first six months of their Scottish Government-funded project ‘Community action and service access for maternal, newborn and child health’. The project has already made great progress, exceeding all the milestones set for this stage of the programme.
The third presentation was delivered by Mike McKirdy, Professional Advisor to the Scottish Government’s Scottish Global Health Co-ordination Unit. This relatively new unit is going from strength to strength in its ambition to share best practice and learning and to find ways to facilitate the involvement of NHS Scotland staff in global citizenship activities. There are now Champions in each health board area, a People Register for those interested in becoming involved and a Health Partnership Mapping function on the web-site (which includes an entry for the MalDent Project). Mike paid tribute to the hard work of Kerry Chalmers who is the Programme Manager.
After a period of open discussion, the formal part of the meeting closed and Malawian gin and tonics were served for a final networking opportunity.
This had been an enjoyable, interesting and extremely valuable afternoon and evening.
Whilst improvements are always possible, I am very grateful for the coordination and connectivity of those of us who work in Scotland and are engaged in development projects in Malawi. The Scottish Government, Scotland-Malawi Partnership, Malawi-Scotland Partnership, Scottish Global Health Coordination Unit, health boards and educational establishments are developing a very strong inter-disciplinary network of colleagues, all of whom have the common aim of establishing community-led partnerships between the two nations. The MalDent Project benefits greatly from this supportive and collegiate environment.