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Niels Beisinghoff

Niels Beisinghoff

Lebenschance Malawi – A Chance for Malawi
Niels Beisinghoff is a doctoral student in international law after studying law in Germany, Australia, China, and the USA. His doctoral thesis is about the enforcement of human rights vis-à-vis transnational companies. In his spare time, he founded the project Lebenschancen Malawi.

Lebenschance Malawi – A Chance for Malawi
Together with thirty friends, all students from Africa or Europe, Niels Beisinghoff launched a development co-operation project involving Malawi and Germany. All members of the project teams are voluntary workers who aim at translating into reality what is one of the most effective and meaningful projects in the European development arena. The project seeks to address all the points of criticism raised about many past projects and to avoid repeating these mistakes. It focuses on health care, education and the empowerment of women, thus ensuring sustainability. Hardly any money goes to German development aid workers, funds are provided to Malawian educators instead. Whatever happens at the German end (website, flyers, materials) is sponsored or done by voluntary workers. All donations are sent directly to Malawi, they are not channelled through any governmental authority, neither in Germany nor in Malawi. The Malawian and German teams are in direct contact with each other, vividly exchanging information. The project was carefully prepared in terms of its ethnological implications, so that it is carried out in stages which meet with cultural acceptance. As the German Ministry for Economic Co-operation may support the project by a generous grant, chances are that all funds donated can be quadruplicated. This development project for Malawi is unique in many other respects, too, as a visit to the website www.lebenschancen.org/malawi will show.

The project requires funds to the tune of € 200,000. The German team will collect € 50,000 from private individuals. As soon as this amount has been reached, it is likely that the German Ministry for Economic Co-operation will contribute the remaining € 150,000.

In the UN Millennium Development Goals, which 189 states are signatories to, the UN decided to reduce women and child mortality. However, little has been done in this field so far, especially in Malawi. Our project, Lebenschancen Malawi, seeks to address this problem in a targeted way by offering training courses for midwives (so-called TBAs – traditional birth attendants) so as to reduce the mortality of mothers and children in the Nkhotakota district by 25%. Thus, the birth attendants will not only be trained in all medical aspects of pregnancy and birth, they will also be sensitized to issues such as family planning and HIV/AIDS. Thus, the project covers five out of eight UN Millennium Goals at least in part (maternal health, child mortality, empowerment of women, the combat against HIV, and global partnership for development).

Malawi is one of the poorest countries of the world. It fact, it is the poorest country of the world in terms of per capita income. The risk for women of dying in childbirth is almost 2%, 200 times higher than in Germany. As much as 15% to 20% of the Malawian population are infected with the HI Virus. However, as the country is politically stable, Malawi has good chances of benefiting from development co-operation.

Many factors, such as no prenatal care, malnourishment and a lack of hygiene during childbirth, lead to major health hazards for mothers and their babies. Most HIV-infected children contract the virus in their mothers’ wombs. Medication to prevent such infections exists, but only 10% of the jeopardized infants are administered the life-saving pharmaceuticals. Our project ensures that the medication is available, thus reducing the HIV rate in newborn children by about 80%.

The TBA training takes place on the premises of the only birth clinic in the entire Nkhotakota district, St. Anne’s Hospital. It is planned to train TBAs in courses of several weeks in the capital of the province. The first step will be to reduce existing prejudice that separates traditional midwives and medically trained hospital staff so as to create a sound basis for an exchange of experiences and know-how transfer later on. Training will specially focus on potential complications during birth, their causes, and ways of treating them. After having been taught the theoretical basics, TBAs will observe complicated births, e.g., c-sections, at the hospital and be given opportunities of using their theoretical knowledge in practice.

Due to the fact that TBAs reach out to women in distant locations in Malawi, they should also act as multipliers in matters of family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. In large parts of the population, these are still issues considered taboo or surrounded by myths and horror stories. Since women trust the TBAs, they can help them address important questions without prejudice and false superstition.

This project is a perfect example of how the lives of underprivileged people can be improved. The project Lebenschancen Malawi stands for meaningful development co-operation based on voluntary commitment at a low level of the civil society. It also stands for development co-operation from the heart and mind. It gives people in Malawi chances to live and it is open to contributions from everybody.