Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Malawi made history this weekend — becoming the first ever hospital in the southern African country to perform a brain tumour surgery.
The operation was a performed on a 37-year-old woman, diagnosed with a brain tumour after she failed to respond to medications that were prescribed for her severe headaches.
The tumour was only discovered after donations from members of the public paid for the woman to have a brain scan at a private health centre, according to report from the Nyasa Times.
Her x-ray results showed that she had craniopharyngioma — a rare type of brain tumour that grows into the pituitary gland, also known as the master gland as it releases several hormones into the bloodstream.
Craniopharyngioma can lead to blindness and memory loss, making it all the more important for the woman involved to be treated as quickly as possible.
The 5-hour surgery was performed by Dr. Ken-Keller Kumwenda and a team of local doctors, nurses and anaesthetists. Kumwenda has said that, following the surgery, the patient is recovering well.
However, as KCH director Dr. Jonathan Ngoma notes, Malawi doesn’t yet have the capacity or skill to fully be treating craniopharyngioma and other neurological diseases.
“Malawi has only two practicing neurosurgeons for a population of over 16 million people, this is against the WHO recommended ratio of one neurosurgeon to every 100,000 of population — we need to have more neurosurgeons,” he said.
Malawi was ranked the seventh poorest nation in the world in 2017, which is having a significant impact in the country on achieving the UN Global Goal of good health and wellbeing for everyone.
A reported 12 million people in Malawi are living below the international poverty line of $1.25 a day. Consequently, the healthcare system in the country is overburdened.
There is only one medical doctor for every 50,000 people; one in 10 adults are HIV positive; and medical staff favour immigrating or working in the non-governmental sector over the state.