UCL Global


UCL partnership supports launch of Malawi’s first specialised stroke unit

21 June 2019

The seven-year project, supported by a fundraiser in London this month that raised £50,000, will ensure the unit opens before the end of 2019

Malawi Stroke Unit fundraiser event in Mayfair

A partnership between UCL and several institutions in the UK and Malawi is set to result in the opening of the first Malawi Stroke Unit by the end of 2019, following a successful fundraiser in London this month.

The Stroke Unit represents the culmination of a seven-year project. The longstanding partnership involves UCL (Stroke Research Centre), University College London Hospitals, Liverpool University, the Malawi government, the College of Medicine and the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Program.

Exceeded £50,000 target  

This month’s fundraising event, held at the Conduit Club in Mayfair, London and attended by over 100 people, included a silent auction which featured limited edition prints by artists including Warhol, Dali and Lichtenstein, leading to the team outdoing their £50,000 target.

While Telekom Networks Malawi has supported the construction of the unit, these additional funds will help to establish a multi-disciplinary  training program for the Malawi team, as well as the purchase of equipment for the unit.

The stroke service will be based at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre. Once operational, the unit will become one of a handful operating in the continent of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Service template for the region

Explaining the need for a specialised stroke unit in Malawi, the UK project lead, Laura Benjamin, Honorary Clinical Lecturer in Neurology at UCL, said: “There is a need for such an initiative as the health landscape in Malawi transitions, and the incidence of non-infectious diseases like strokes quickly rises.”  

The Malawi unit will be led locally by Dr Tamara Phiri, a Malawian Medical Consultant at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, with support from stroke professionals based in the UK. The unit will take best practice and systems from the UK and adapt them for needs in Malawi.

Robert Simister, a Neurologist and the Clinical Stroke Lead for University College London Hospitals, said: “This work will save lives, deliver meaningful functional recovery for stroke survivors and, potentially become a service template for additional stroke services across Malawi and neighbouring regions.”

Tremendous support

Orlando Swayne, the Neurology lead for Neurorehabilitation at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, said: "We increasingly recognise that early and intensive neurorehabilitation after stroke reduces disability and dependence.

“The presence in Blantyre of an existing rehabilitation centre presents an opportunity to incorporate this into the new stroke pathway there.”

Laura Benjamin added: “The support for the unit has been tremendous, and the generosity from our guests has taken us a step closer in achieving the goal of setting up Malawi’s first Stroke Unit, and ultimately, change the devastating effects that stroke has on the people of Malawi.

“We thank Isabel Cary, a physiotherapist on the team, for curating a wonderful and successful event.”