When she applied for an Irish Aid Fellowship in 2009, Linny Theressa Kachama worked as a Nutritionist in Malawi’s Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS in the Office of the President and Cabinet. Her role particularly involved facilitating implementation of the National Nutrition Policy and Strategic Plan (NNPSP) and providing technical guidance and support on implementation. Through Irish Aid's support she was able to undertake the Masters in Public Health Nutrition at University College Dublin, 2010-11.
My job doesn’t only deal with nutrition but also HIV and AIDS work. The diversity of this course has enabled me to look at them in a wider picture. Additionally, it has helped me to appreciate health and well-being and their related issues holistically, not only in light of public health but also in terms of how different environments affect them directly or indirectly. The comprehensiveness of the course is what makes it very unique and relevant to my work in Malawi.
I’d particularly point at public health practice, research methods, epidemiology and health economics, which has equipped us with the skills on how we can implement cost-effective programmes and interventions. It’s easy to rush at trying to implement programmes. I’ve acquired skills in developing programmes that are cost effective and sustainable - one of the very good things that will help when I go back to my country. I wouldn’t have been able to think of interventions along these lines if it wasn’t for studying Health Economics.
My analytical skills have improved tremendously. Being an officer at policy level, we have to scrutinise recommendations that come to our office and whether they will benefit Malawians. Now I will be able to look at things more critically and provide proper guidance on the implementation of the NNPSP.
Also, there’s a need to know how to approach public health issues through research. By learning skills in that area, how to interpret evidence on the ground, we can come up with interventions that are evidence-based and appropriate. The skills I’m gaining will therefore help me impact my country by promoting evidence-based nutrition programmes.
I don’t have to be the only one having the knowledge and skills. My office needs a lot of well trained staff in nutrition and since I’m also involved in training different cadres in nutrition and health, the skills and knowledge that I have gained will enable me to impact on others.
The field of nutrition is an upcoming one that is attracting a lot of attention from governments, development partners and organisations across the globe. People have realised that nutrition is vital to development of a nation. You can’t talk of improving educational outcomes in schools without having well nourished pupils. You can’t talk of advancing the economy when the people are malnourished. It’s good that leaders and donors are recognising this need and I thank Irish Aid for supporting me on this course which will help in the capacity building of my country. Malawi needs a lot of trained personnel in nutrition and I hope that Irish Aid will continue its support in this area.
This programme has transformed my capabilities to perform challenging tasks in my work and having a Masters Degree will give me new opportunities. People trust you when you have a relevant qualification, knowledge and skills. With my previous qualifications, it wasn’t possible for me to make key decisions - but now, when I go back to Malawi, I have a greater chance of being entrusted in a leadership position so that I can have much more influence on health related issues and also promote women’s involvement in leadership. It will all be because of this fellowship and I have to thank Irish Aid for this opportunity.