MLW started working in Chikwawa in 2002 concentrating on child survival initiatives in the areas of malaria, schistomiasis and entomology hence the name “Chikwawa Child Survival Initiative”. Demand to conduct studies has been increasing greatly from 1 study in 2002 with 8 staff members to 6 studies plus 3 sub studies in 2015/2016 with approximately current staffing of 80 staff members (18% of the MLW). Despite being a Child Survival Initiative, research demand in Chikwawa for the past 6 years has driven the site to extend its scope beyond Child Survival Initiative hence a new name has now been proposed “Chikwawa MLW Site.”
There are four main distinctive factors why MLW is interested to continue operating and further expand/strengthen research activities in Chikwawa.
- Demand for Research: High demand for research activities has been experienced over the 5 years E.g. from 2 to 6 studies and also 8 to 80 staff members.
- Rural vs Urban Setting: conducting research in rural setting with limited healthcare will provide a better comparison with research done in urban settings like Blantyre which have better health care provision. The majority of the population (80%) in Malawi live in the rural area like Chikwawa.
- High disease burden & MOH priority: Chikwawa continues to be one of the top priority districts for the Ministry of Health because of high disease burden, coupled with high illiteracy and poverty. MLWs scientific strategy always strives to be aligned with the Ministry of Health’s priority areas so that it is locally relevant.
- Geography/Proximity: close to MLW offices in Blantyre (45 minutes’ drive away) making it cost effective to run studies eg transportation of specimen and other research supplies.
Within the broader MLW 2016-2026 vision of conducting world-leading translational Science in Sub Saharan Africa, Chikwawa site has been identified as a critical piece of the puzzle for continued transmission reduction studies in malaria (including entomology and pharmaco-epi), zoonosis, lung health, field studies of salmonella and other enteric infections. It also provides a good comparison of the urban vs rural in different study areas. It is already mapped for cluster randomised intervention studies.
The Chikwawa Site will provide the necessary rural population to determine urban/rural differences in infectious (particularly parasite and enteric infection) and non-communicable diseases as well as specific intervention studies in cluster randomised designs. (Refer to CK Strategy pgs 6-10)
Proposed 2017 – 2022 level of operations
The site is expected to be improved to accommodate a maximum of 3 to 4 big studies or 6 to 8 medium studies with a staffing range of 60 to 100.
Proposed growth and activities
In order to respond positively to the growth of the site and improve general day to day management at the site, the following activities are going to be done;
- Refurbish the current rooms into clinical/study space comprising of 1 laboratory with an insectary, 1 pharmacy, 1 cold room, 4 clinical rooms and also 2 toilets (1each for males and females)
- Construct a 400m2 new building for offices and meetings that will habour; 6 office rooms (150m2), meeting room(100m2), store (30 m2), field workers office 50m2, toilets 30m2, visitors area 25m2 and 10m2 veranda
- Recruit additional operation staff to meet the current demand; Site Administrator responsible (for day to management of the site), IT/Data (responsible for IT trouble shooting and support studies on data issues), security guard, housekeeper (to fill the gap that currently exist) and one driver for a pool vehicle.
The Field Sites Manager is responsible for overall strategic operations in the field sites including Chikwawa site. The Chikwawa Administrator is responsible for day to administrative and logistical activities.