Working as a medical doctor in his home country Malawi seems to have given Dr Mwai Makoka ideal experience for his task of program executive for Health and Healing at the World Council of Churches (WCC), an organization supported in part by the Interdenominational Cooperation Fund of The United Methodist Church.
He has experience in medical microbiology, HIV and AIDS, working for both government and church-based institutions after graduating as a doctor in Malawi, a country accustomed to working with church-run hospitals.
Prior to joining the WCC Makoka was executive director of Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM), part of the continent-wide Africa Christian Health Associations Platform (ACHAP) and a member of ACT Alliance.
CHAM is responsible for 37 percent of Malawi's health services, as well as training 80 percent of the southern African nation's healthcare practitioners.
Now Makoka's duties involve running an office that liaises with international organizations and nearly 350 member churches in the WCC in different parts of the world.
"This is an old desk. Churches have been involved in health care since time immemorial. Some of my work entails liaising with the WHO (World Health Organization) and consolidating the voice of the churches and the ecumenical family there".
"We have been working with WHO since it was established. I think we are the first faith-based organization to have a relationship with the WHO," says Makoka.
He notes that faith-based organizations, especially churches, are essential providers of health services in many countries, especially in Africa.
For example, in Malawi, churches run 11 nursing schools. Its neighbours, Zambia and Zimbabwe have similar involvement of churches in health provision.
"At the WCC we look at holistic health. Health is not medicine. Health is not purely medical. Health is complete well-being'.
"When church leaders are standing in the pulpit and they preach and talk about health issues, they are not digressing. That is the place to talk about health. Health is not just hospitals," he says showing the coalescing of the spiritual with the practical.
One of the goals is to help develop models to increase universal health coverage, making sure there are not duplications within the relevant institutions forging synergies.
Dr Makoka also notes, "Mapping of churches involvement in healthcare is high on our agenda. It has been discussed, but more progress needs to be made. There have been isolated efforts here. Now that I am here, this will be one of the first parts of my work."
"It will be a very important tool. Mapping is not just for prestige. It is valuable to know about your work to help in advocacy for resources mobilization and allocation," says Makoka.
"If providers of health services do not have clear data, they might not have resources allocated to them. If you have data you can more easily lobby for resources with members of parliaments."
World Council of Churches website
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