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Martha Kwataine - Lilongwe, Malawi

Submitted by Jennifer Lentfer - Washington, DC
Martha Kwataine leads the Malawi Health Equity Network, a coalition of local nonprofits and citizens working on access to quality health services, and a partner of USAID. Photo: Brett Eloff / Oxfam

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Health advocate Martha Kwataine is leveraging a tiny investment of US foreign aid to protect the health of people in rural communities across Malawi.

Martha Kwataine is protecting the health of people in rural communities across her country.

In rural areas of Malawi, health care workers are not interested in serving in rural posts. Thus people in these areas are under-served. In 2010 the government of Malawi withdrew the scholarships it had been providing to help staff these positions, saying there was no agreement with international donors to continue the program.

“I lobbied hard for the reintroduction of these scholarships, since rural Malawians should not be punished for living where they do,” Kwataine says.

After the vocal advocacy of Kwataine and her colleagues, government officials responded. The 2011 Malawi national budget included 1,200 health scholarships to staff underserved areas.

“I have to ensure that the national budget translates into improved health service delivery,” says Kwataine. “As a health rights activist, my role has to be to link policymakers with the reality on the ground.”

This story was submitted as part of Oxam America's International Women's Day initiative to honor women working to right the wrongs of poverty and hunger. Honorees are selected independently by Oxfam supporters. Selection does not imply endorsement or other support from Oxfam America.

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