Dr Gama Bandawe

Equipment Enables Rapid Disaster Response in Malawi

Blog, Impact, Instrumental Access 2017, Scientist Success Stories Leave a Comment

New Labs Accelerate Critical Public Health Research, Create Opportunities for Students

Cyclone Idai

Widespread flooding in the wake of Cyclone Idai created a public health risk in Malawi

In March 2019, Cyclone Idai became one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the Southern hemisphere.

It ravaged Malawi and neighboring countries, affecting an estimated 3 million people.

Because of you, Dr. Gama Bandawe (pictured above), a medical virologist at the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), was poised to respond with the necessary scientific equipment in place.

Five thousand pounds of Instrumental Access equipment arrived at MUST in November 2018. The cyclone made landfall just four months later.


Dr Gama Bandawe

“These are the moments when destiny calls. As a scientist, this was the time to step up and be of value to your nation, to your society, and to the world.”

—Dr. Gama Bandawe, Malawi University of Science & Technology


As the tragedy unfolded, international organizations rushed in. UNICEF partnered with LIKA, an immunology lab from Brazil, to deploy an innovative disease surveillance platform to monitor public health.

The UNICEF team traveled across Malawi in search of a local partner. After seeing the well-equipped labs at MUST, they immediately requested that Dr. Bandawe join their disaster response team. And an international public health collaboration was launched!

“This global South-South collaboration has only been possible because we showed that we are sufficiently equipped to be a useful and equal partner,” Dr. Bandawe reports.

Water samples

Dr. Bandawe used equipment from Instrumental Access to test samples of floodwater and monitor for outbreaks of disease

MUST and UNICEF rapidly mobilized to test water sources in the flooded areas; monitor for tuberculosis, malaria, and cholera; and comb through drone and satellites images.

Thanks to our generous equipment donors, Dr. Bandawe and his team have the instruments they needed to analyze samples of storm water.

They are working to validate disaster response initiatives and ultimately, to predict and prevent deadly outbreaks of disease.

New Opportunities for Students

Before the Instrumental Access shipment arrived at MUST, “we had a university full of students and staff in great facilities who could do only the most rudimentary science because there was no equipment,” says Dr. Bandawe.

But thanks to our generous donors and supporters, that has drastically changed!

Launch of labs

Thanks to the influx of equipment from Instrumental Access, Dr. Bandawe and colleagues inaugurated 5 new teaching labs this spring

With your start-up support, Dr. Bandawe and colleagues inaugurated five new, fully-equipped labs in MUST’s Academy of Medical Sciences this past April.

“We would be in a very different and sad place if not for this equipment,” Dr. Bandawe says. “It literally pushed us decades ahead in one fell swoop.”

Thanks to your donations, MUST is now able to offer practical training programs available at no other university in the country.

“Your support makes an entire world of difference and has a lifelong impact,” says Dr. Bandawe.

Photo at top:  Dr. Gama Bandawe was poised—and equipped—to join the international team in disaster relief efforts following Cyclone Idai. Thanks to supporters like you, his labs in Malawi have the instruments needed to monitor floodwater for outbreaks of disease.

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