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Calling for Health - Business Support for Malawi HIV/AIDS Helpline


Over 40 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV and AIDS.  Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than 70% of the global total of those living with HIV and AIDS and 80% of the total global AIDS deaths.


MAIN (Malawi HIV and AIDS International Network) was established in 2001 in London by Malawians around the worldto work with other African Communities and Service Providers in providing services that are culturally appropriate, community focused and sensitive to the rapid changes affecting issues relating to HIV and AIDS.

Background to the Project

Poverty, stigma, negative attitudes and denial are some of the barriers preventing people from getting the help and information they need regarding HIV and AIDS.  Reaching out to those affected by HIV and AIDS within Malawi raises some significant challenges and, given the nature of the country’s infrastructure, it can be difficult for information to be acquired and circulated regarding support programmes, service providers and other sources of support for those affected by HIV and AIDS.  This lack of co-ordinated information is a barrier to effective research and planning around these issues.

In view of these problems, MAIN has embarked on a project to establish a Helpline in Malawi to facilitate the flow of information within the country and to provide advice and support to those infected or affected by HIV and AIDS.

HIV/AIDS Helpline

The Helpline will be manned by volunteers recruited and trained by MAIN and will enable people to call in from around the country for information, advice, counselling and support.  Through the information received from callers, MAIN will also be able to add to available information on HIV and AIDS inside and outside the country and to disseminate information on where support may be available.  Figures suggest that only about 2% of Malawians have access to a landline (other than a public telephone, which wouldn't allow them confidentiality) and only 5% have access to a cell phone.  MAIN therefore plans to complement the Helpline with drop in centres.

MAIN is currently represented in Malawi by volunteers who offer their time and services on an ad-hoc and part-time basis.  The nature of the present structure makes it difficult to mobilise real development and MAIN needs to properly constitute the group and to put together an operational budget for the organization to sustain itself.  This information, properly presented, will give MAIN the foundation to seek donor funds for the Helpline project.

Interims for Development and MAIN

Interims for Development offered the services of an Interim Manager based in Malawi to assist MAIN.  As an experienced Business Accountant and Financial Controller visiting Malawi for one year, Mike Oswald was perfectly positioned to offer his help.  For Grace Manyika, MAIN’s London-based Executive Director, Mike’s assistance would provide a crucial starting point for the project.

Following an initial meeting with Grace Manyika in Lilongwe, it was clear that a number of operational hurdles needed to be cleared before the project could proceed.  As Mike reported,

“Some of the MAIN volunteers have passed away and the Malawian Trustees work full time on other things. As such, there is no full-time programme director to fully research and head the project in Malawi for the first few years.”

Following a review of the resources available, Mike advised that the key issue for MAIN was to develop a credible and costed proposal with which to approach donors and to appoint a programme manager with a health background and a thorough knowledge of Malawi to research and implement the programme’s objectives and strategies.

Combining his financial management experience and some additional research, Mike was able to provide MAIN with a budget template and spreadsheets covering the types of costs to include.  To assist with funding applications, Mike also developed a template for funding proposals, showing what would need to be addressed and provided some research on the steps the project needed to take to register in Malawi.  When MAIN appoints a programme manager, Mike will be on hand to offer further training as required until he leaves Malawi. 

Contact MAIN at: info@mainmalawi.org

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