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Malawi Blood Donation Stories - Misunderstandings in Ndirande

Malawi Market

The loud voice could be heard by everyone in the neighborhood. The pandemonium was everywhere. Everyone was running helter skelter, running from the unknown. I could not manage to stop even one lad so that I could find out what led to the mayhem. I had to run for my dear life, for the first time I trusted my legs that they could take me out of that place faster than my car. I left my car unlocked since my life was at risk of the unknown. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me until I was about to suffocate and it is then that I realized that no one was behind me. After resting for barely 2 minutes I saw the crowd following me as if they were chasing me, and this time I saw the police behind the crowd. I also smelled smoke which forced tears into my eyes and this time I decided to change my direction and go to ‘Ndirande’.

This is the most feared ghetto in Malawi. The police have hardly any control over this ghetto and some people call it Ndix. My hope was on this ‘ghetto’ that it would help me to escape the melee, little did I know that it was this ghetto which had bred this scuffle. There were no people mingling around in the ghetto, the few people I saw were all running to and fro with no one chasing them. I hid in a urine-smelling tinned bathroom which had no roof and had a chiguduli (sackcloth) as a door. It was the smoke which smoked me out of this tiny and smelly bathroom, I could not withstand the acrid smoulder which the police men shared in this ghetto. I remembered the last time I had a whiff of teargas; it was in our Kamuzu stadium where there was a football match between the arch rivals Big Bullets (BB) and Mighty Be-forward Wanderers, where the Big Bullets were denied the equalizing goal in the 94th minute just seconds to the stopping time. The supporters of BB were not happy with the decision the referee had made and they started stoning the referee. There was bedlam and the police were outnumbered, so they had no option but to fire teargas. I was the victim of circumstance, I lost my wallet where I was keeping my driving license, two Auto Teller Machine cards, my identity card and some change amounting to MWK20,000 (~ GBP 22.00). I also suffered some minor injuries which took me a week to recover.

There was no place to hide in Ndirande, it was not the same mighty Ndirande everyone saluted when it comes to the stoning of police officers and burning tires in the roads. This time everyone was running for his/her dear life. I heard another sound which was different from the sound of a teargas gun, it was from a mother crying for help. She was calling for people to come and see what the police had done. The somber crying calling voice was coming from the direction I was running towards. I was the first to see the victim and I could not believe what I saw. It was my first time to see a live bullet wound. There was a 12 -year-old boy who was shot in the stomach and blood was oozing out like water coming from the pipe of a fire fighter tanker. The boy lacking energy to force his vocal cords to produce sound could not cry. The wound was so big as if someone had just come and opened a hole into his stomach. Seeing this terrifying wound and the sound coming from his mother cursing the police officer who shot this boy - that he will not find peace and his entire family will perish even his chickens, dogs, pets, and even if there are mice in his house which she doubted citing that the Malawi police officers are too poor to have food left in their houses for mice, but she went on saying even if by miracle there are mice in his house they should die too because of his act. I could not wait to be the next victim to be cursed for just watching her child dying in her hands, since I had one parent left and I loved my family and my pets.

I carried the boy on my back and this time I did not care whether I would be the next one to be shot or arrested. I ran, going back to where I was initially coming from since it is where the clinic was. The mother was in front of me acting as a siren and I as the ambulance. Everyone in our way had to pave way for me to pass because of the siren emanating from the mother. After reaching the clinic we found out that the boy was urgently in need of blood and that there was no blood at the clinic. They gave us an ambulance which took us to Queen Elizabeth central hospital.

The nurses of this hospital were so helpful, courtesy of the words the boy’s mother constantly vomited towards the nurses. ‘This is a witch act by the police officers, but if they thought I will lose this only child of mine they have failed because I have managed to bring him here while he is still breathing, and if you nurses will watch my child breathing his last breath then you will see what made the ants have their skeleton outside and their body inside.’ I watched the nurses running with the boy to a theatre room while the guard was receiving his own words from the boy’s mother as he was trying to stop her. ‘Go away you stinking, useless guard, do you know what that little boy means to me? That is the only thing his father left for me when he died in that room where my child is going, after he was severely beaten by the same barbaric police officers who ferociously took him for someone he was not even though he was crying to them that he was innocent and that was his name. They found out after he was half dead that he was really innocent as his name suggested’. I felt sorry for this poor woman who confessed that the matter did not even go before the court of law.

The doctor came out just after five minutes and the mother fainted upon seeing him coming towards her. The doctor then turned to me and I was also terrified that I did not want to receive this information from him considering how I would need to deliver the message to this poor woman when she woke up. The doctor politely asked me what was my relationship with the boy, and I quickly told him that there was no relationship with neither the woman or the boy. He then asked me what happened and I had to explain the whole story to him, and just as I mentioned that the boy and his mother are from Ndirande the guard loudly and rudely shouted ‘I knew it, I knew that they are from Ndix’ ironically the guard was also from the same area.

The guard told us that he knew it would come to this and also warned the doctor that they will be more people reporting to this hospital. I asked him why he was speaking with such boldness and how does he know this? He then told us that it was a misunderstanding a misconception which had led to this. He said a young man aged 19 years took his friend to Malawi Blood Transfusion Services (MBTS) to donate blood. The problem was that this newly intended blood donor was not told when they started off to MBTS, his friend just told him that he should escort him, he is going somewhere to get some money. So since both of them had no money the one escorting did not ask his friend many questions but he just followed since he was told that he will see where they were going. They walked nearly 10 kilometers and the one escorting started asking questions like how far will they still walk? And he was told that they were almost there.

He was surprised to see a mansion with guards and many cars parked around its premises. What surprised him most was that his friend did not care about the guards and he just passed them, showing that he knew the place very well. This guy was just following though this time he was terrified. The fellows entered the mansion and they were welcomed by a young beautiful lady who did not care much about them and they were told to sit on the couch which was behind them. The new guy sat at the edge showing discomfort, and his friend thought he should tell him that there was nothing to worry about. He said to his friend ‘this is the place where I told you that we will get the money, but first of all we have to give them our blood’. The new guy, just after hearing that they have to give their blood for money, stood up and started running. His friend tried to call him back but by the time he was coming out of the building, his friend had already passed the gate and the guards were chasing him wondering what he was running away from. The guards could not match his pace, he ran like a hurricane. The remaining guy donated blood and the money he was talking about was the transport refund which the MBTS gives to anyone who goes there and donates blood.

He laughed at his friend who ran away as he was on his way back home, unfortunately his nose could not smell from afar what was waiting for him at home. Soon after reaching his house he heard a loud noise shouting and singing that they will kill the Satanist today. He went outside to see what was going on and he saw a crowd gathering momentum as they saw him, and started shouting that there he is the Satanist who takes his friend for blood sacrifice for money, they were shouting as they were running towards him. He ran for his life to the nearest police unit where the mob followed him demanding his blood. The police officers at the unit were outnumbered and they called for backup. That is what has caused all this and as I was about to ask him a question the doctor interrupted me and asked me if I could do the boy and her mother a favor to go with him so that they can examine me to see if I could donate blood because they had no blood in their blood banks and the boy could not survive another two hours without blood.

Written by Davrine C. Gondwe

Editing A. Mzumara & A. Bahnweg

© Copyright Kuluka 2016

Comments:

The MBTS transport refund should not be misused and is important for helping blood donors who may have a long journey to a donation centre. When introducing a friend or acquaintance to blood donation it is helpful to ensure they aware of what blood donation means and what the process involves. You can find information about the blood donation process here: The MBTS also has helpful literature that you can share.