Remembering our Patron – books to improve healthcare

13th April 2021 | Blog

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh was our Patron for 55 years. He was a great reader who believed in the power of books, so this week we are remembering him by sharing stories of people who used books to change their lives.

Below, we look back at the story of Fikanayo, a midwife in Malawi who used books to provide better health information to her community. Fikanayo is a registered nurse midwife and also teaches other midwives. This is her story.

Limited resources mean that many universities, training colleges and even hospitals in Malawi struggle to provide staff and students with the up-to-date books they need to support their work and studies. Yet they are vital for the provision of safe healthcare and the training of the next generation of medical staff.

A book does wonders because you can look and see how you can go about something.



“I was motivated to become a nurse midwife because growing up I just had that passion – when someone was hurt I would be the first one to take care of them.

I did my bachelors in midwifery at Kamuzu College of Nursing and after that I developed an interest in epidemiology and communicable diseases – so that’s why I applied for the Masters in Public Health.

The place where I studied to become a midwife had Book Aid International Books and now I am using them here for my Masters. I also use them to teach!


The average person in Malawi has few healthcare options. If our pre and postnatal clinic wasn’t there, it would be a big burden on the hospital. We offer free maternal services to all the women in the catchment area and without it local mums would struggle. They would have to go a very long distance to seek healthcare.

Women living in remote and rural communities in Malawi sometimes have to travel miles to access pre-and-postnatal healthcare


Working as a midwife here in Malawi – especially in the remote area where I work – it is like you are the chief consultant! You are the obstetrician, the gynaecologist, the anaesthetist, the paediatrician. You have to manage the baby, the mother, the pregnant women at the same time as being the midwife. You are manning the antenatal clinic, you are the one in charge in the labour ward, in the nursery. There are times that you are not sure what to do! For instance, you might have a lady in labour who has a condition you have never come across.

A book does wonders because you can look and see how you can go about something.

Currently, for my studies I am doing research on diabetes, specifically self-care. When I was working on the wards, I saw a lot of patients with diabetes and many of them developed complications – becoming blind, having amputations, some of them even having a stroke. There is not much information about diabetes so my intervention is trying to make sure that they get adequate support at home. I thought if we give out enough information then it means that they might be able to manage their diabetes better.


Women and baby
Fikanayo uses books you help to send to provide quality healthcare to pregnant and post-natal women and their children


So the idea is I take the information I learn here [in the library] and turn it into information for the patients in their homes.

If the books were not here it would have been very hard. The books elaborate and make it easier. The internet might tell you something but books are better. They give you more information.

Even currently with my students, when we are doing clinical practice I still refer them to books because there are books which guide you on how you can do your practice. There are some which contain nursing procedures which students might not understand – so you refer the student to a book and say ‘You might not yet understand perfectly because of the way I am explaining it but go to the book and read about it.’

Trying to provide care when you do not always have all the information is really quite hard. Books are not always available because someone else is using them. So we need more copies. So if someone donates the books we need, they will be helping a lot.

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