The Republic of Malawi is a beautiful and peaceful country in southeast Africa, with a population of about 17 million, three times that of Scotland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. It is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi.
Though beautiful, Malawi is extremely poor; the World Bank estimates that it is one of the poorest in the world. The average life expectancy of 55-60 years reflects some of the world's highest rates for infant and maternal mortality, malnutrition and infectious diseases. Despite the its serious health problems, the country has one of the lowest numbers of doctors per capita (1 per 50,000). International epidemiological studies would suggest that the rates of mental illness in Malawi are also high - at least as high as those in western and other developing countries. In spite of this mental health services are very underdeveloped. Two doctors have recently qualified as the only trained Malawian psychiatrists working in the country: a ratio of one psychiatrist to treat more than 8 million people.
The Scotland Malawi Mental Health Education Project (SMMHEP) aims to help develop sustainable mental health services in Malawi, by supporting psychiatric teaching and training for student doctors and other health care professionals. The project has enjoyed close links with individuals and institutions in Malawi since 2006 and became a registered Scottish Charity in 2008, converting to a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) in September 2014.
Currently we deliver psychiatry teaching to medical students at the Malawi College of Medidcine, support post graduate psychiatry trainees doing the Master in Medicine course and also help train psychiatry nurses and clinical officers based in Zomba Mental Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre. For the last 5 years, we have also funded and helped organise the annual Mental Health Conference in Malawi that is attended by delegates from sub Saharan Africa, the UK, Europe and the USA.
In addition, we have also developed a package of e-learning materials in mental health and completed a project to train primary care health workers in mental health.
The project has received support from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (London and Scotland), the Scottish Government, National Health Service Education Scotland (NES), the Tropical Health Education Trust (THET) and local postgraduate Deaneries and tutors in Scotland.