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Creating lasting change: The Blantyre One Stop Centre

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gratitude. Pride. Humility. Just a few of the emotions I felt today as I visited for my first time the Blantyre One Stop Centre for Child Abuse and Domestic Violence at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.

The exam room for children in the Blantyre One Stop Centre

In March 2009 during my first trip to Malawi, the one stop centre was just an idea, a plan by UNICEF to coordinate with law enforcement the creation of a centre to be built by the courts, without involvement of medical professionals.  Upon learning about my trip to Malawi, Dr. Neil Kennedy, a senior pediatric consultant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, called for a stakeholder meeting which was held during my visit and which changed forever the course of one stop centres in Malawi.  

As the doctors, police, social welfare, and police sat down together for the first time to discuss child abuse, they learned from each other the scope of their work and the daily challenges they face.  And it was Justice Edward Twea, National Chairman of the Juvenile Justice Forum, who said that the doctors are too busy seeing 90,000 children per year in the Emergency Department and thus that the one stop centre for child abuse should be built at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.  My jaw almost dropped - it was so exciting to see law enforcement give such a concession to the medical field - more importantly, to provide a health focus to child maltreatment and domestic violence.  After two hours of them presenting to each other, they asked me to talk about my work.  I humbly explained that there's no one way to do this work, and my center was far from perfect, but I told them about my center at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.  At the end of my presentation, they said they don't know if they could emulate it exactly, but they'd like to try.  I think they may have exceeded it.

Office for Victim Support Unit Police Officer

The Resting Room, where the client or parent can sleep if they travelled a long distance to the centre.

The Resting Room and each exam room have very nice showers for clients.

One of the two hallways in the L-shaped centre.  The adult exam room is straight ahead; the children's exam room is behind the camera.

The interview room with a two-way mirror.

The interview room as seen from the observation room.  The interviews can be audio recorded and perhaps soon will be video recorded.

That I played even a small role in creating this center - training the staff and promoting a health focus - is very humbling.  It is the passion, commitment, and leadership of the local clinicians that has made the Blantyre One Stop Centre a beacon of hope for survivors of violence.

Why no people in the photos?  I took photos of the centre while Tim videotaped interviews of Tandu, the centre's counselor, and John, the Community Child Protection Worker.  While we were there, a child was brought in who had just been abused.  The team went back to work, and we left to return to Lilongwe.

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