Ng'onga, North Malawi


In spite of all the difficulties

A class at Bonstetten Secondary School was brave enough to realise a complex project and so improved the primary health care for 15,000 people in a remote area.


Friday afternoon, the last three lessons of the week - a time teachers do not particularly like. But in Bonstetten everything was different, from the first to the last day, even before the holidays. Perhaps this was possible because the students did not actually have to attend the Development Cooperation lessons. When they had to choose their project, they decided to support a medical centre in Malawi. The Ng'onga Health Centre was facing all the difficulties imaginable, no water, no toilets, no maternity ward, not enough staff and no equipment to make a proper diagnosis. Electricity was available only occasionally, which made the cooling and storage of vaccines too risky.

The main problem for the students was the question of where to start. The request from Malawi consisted of a list of 17 urgent needs. There was indeed a lot to discuss! How shall we set the priorities and what aims can we ever achieve? To make things even more difficult there was GIZ (the German equivalent to the Swiss DEZA, the Agency for Development and Cooperation) which was planning to build a separate maternity ward in Ng'onga amongst other things. Now it was necessary for the IPA management to judge the situation. From experience they know that such huge projects are seldom executed as planned and certainly not so soon. Therefore they made their own plans. In agreement with their partners in Malawi, the class decided to tackle nine part-projects with a budget goal you would not normally expect from people of that age.

IPA – the only partner in the area


The plans as well as their realisation were not easy to accomplish. Some of the part-projects had to be slightly changed. In the middle of the project all the members of staff in the medical centre were changed. The new, still inexperienced crew needed and received more knowledge, for example how to use the new microscope. Other essential further training had already taken place. The administration committee had learnt how to manage a centre properly and how to raise funds. This ensures sustainability. Finally more than the nine original part-projects, some of them slightly modified, were completed. As a result a midwife and a new nurse were employed. The centre is now allowed to assist births without having a separate maternity ward. Having water in the building helps to keep things clean and to flush toilets. Together the villagers and members of staff have cleaned and newly equipped the whole building. The young crew has already saved the lives of several patients who would all have died without the help from Bonstetten. People in Ng'onga are still waiting for the promised GIZ-project. So far IPA remains the only active organisation in the region.

And in Bonstetten? Jasmin said: "I find this project work extremely interesting, I would like to work one day for such an organisation." And Sandra Häcki, the teacher, added: "It is amazing how many individual students who are usually not very motivated, have contributed to this project." Once again: winners on both sides.

Treatment for ill persons, children and elderly people