Edinburgh-based charity EMMS International today [Friday 3rd November] launched the “Every Life Matters” campaign to improve healthcare in Malawi. The campaign has the backing of the UK government which will match donations from the public, pound for pound.

Children in Malawi with terminal cancer, like Grecian (full story appended), spend their days in pain and hunger because poverty puts pain relief, quality healthcare and even basic food out of reach.

In Malawi, cancer diagnoses have more than doubled in the last decade. By 2021, an estimated 180,000 patients and their families will need palliative care. Across Africa, cancer cases are expected to grow by 400% in the next 50 years.

EMMS International’s campaign will raise money to train more healthcare workers, improve access to healthcare and support families to grow their own food. Helping 10,000 patients and a further 50,000 family members over the next 3 years.

The campaign is being promoted by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

James Wells, Chief Executive, EMMS International:

“Every life matters. No life should be wasted in hunger and pain, especially that of a child. However, that is all too often the case in Malawi. We’re excited about this opportunity to change this, thanks to the generosity of the public and match funding from the UK government.”

Priti Patel, International Development Secretary:

 “EMMS International is giving life-saving support to sick people and their families in some of the most remote and hard to reach areas in Malawi. The Every Life Matters appeal will ensure the right help continues to get to those who need it most, providing vital healthcare to people suffering from life-threatening illnesses and helping them to grow their own food to support their families.

“Every generous donation made by the public to the Every Life Matters appeal will be matched pound for pound by the UK Government, meaning we will double the difference Britons can make to those in desperate need.”

Professor Derek Bell, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh:

"The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is proud to support this important campaign to raise desperately needed money to improve healthcare in Malawi. It is staggering that cancer diagnoses are rising so rapidly and that so many patients will require palliative care in the future, yet the healthcare system in Malawi faces such significant challenges in terms of funding and the accessibility of health services.

“I want to ensure that every life matters and I hope that this campaign can go some way towards improving the provision of healthcare in the country and alleviating some of the issues faced by patients, their families, and healthcare workers alike.”

Mike McKirdy, the Director for Global Health for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow:

 “The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow is looking forward to working with EMMS on  this important programme. The College is very aware of the great health need in Malawi from our own work with partners there, and so welcomes this opportunity to support EMMS in this most worthwhile project in palliative care.”

The campaign was launched in front of the David Livingstone statue in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens. The Scots missionary was a medical pioneer in Malawi and a corresponding member of EMMS International’s earliest iteration, the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society.

Grecian’s Story

Like many 12-year-old boys, Grecian enjoyed football. Supporting his local team in Blantyre, Malawi, following Arsenal and, of course, playing it himself.

This all came to an end after he got sick in 2014. At first, he took a fall in the bathroom and complained of a sore ear and the hospital believed it to be lock-jaw and sent him home. The pain never went away and a surgery to get to the root of the problem in 2015 proved their worst fears right. He had cancer.

He began chemotherapy and their hopes were raised when early signs showed the cancer was responding to treatment. However, when the chemo was finished the tumour began to grow again.

His family are struggling to come to terms with the prognosis. All they want to do is care for their son and grandson. He still attends the only specialist children’s palliative care unit in Malawi. Though they have no hope of a cure, they can give medication which eases his pain and symptoms.

His Grandfather, Goodson, sees the nurses who care for Grecian as a lifeline:

“They make time for you. You can see they are specially trained. They phone, they visit and we can go to them when we need help. They’ve provided the practical support that we need – given pain killers, a mosquito net and food"

Food is a real problem for poor families in Malawi. A chronic food crisis has driven up prices. Sadly, when you are poor in Malawi, food is scarce. Regular, healthy meals are essential to children like Grecian to be able to take their medication and stay strong.

Grecian’s family have been overwhelmed by the input of so many health specialists. Raising their hopes, then delivering devastating disappointment. Now, thanks to specialist nurses supported by EMMS International, they can get help to navigate these difficult times and to care for their precious grandson.

Up until now, the confusion meant they were struggling to manage the medication and, as a result, Grecian was in pain. Not just pain but screaming, crying agony. His nurse, Mary, counselled them on the medications they have and how to give Grecian the pain relief he needs.

Nurse Mary explains:

“As palliative care nurses, we understand how you feel, not just your diagnosis. We will ask and seek to understand what is really needed. We need to have the right attitude so we can care for the heart.”

Support for the “Every Life Matters” appeal will give people like Grecian and his family:

- The pain relief he needs including morphine.

- Access to quality healthcare and specially trained staff.

- The means to grow their own healthy and sustainable food.

- Support and counselling for him and his family.


EMMS International is an Edinburgh-based international healthcare charity. It was founded in 1841 as the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society. The charity works to provide access to quality, dignified healthcare for the poorest and most vulnerable people in Malawi, Nepal, India and Scotland. In 2016-17, EMMS International’s projects helped 210,922 poor and vulnerable people.

Every Life Matters is a fundraising campaign which aims to raise £800,000 to improve healthcare in Malawi.

UK Aid Match brings charities, the British public and the UK government together to collectively change the lives of some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. The UK public is given a say in how aid money is spent by matching their donations pound for pound.

Gary Brough

Contact: Gary Brough, EMMS gary.brough@emms.org 0131 313 3828

Louise Macleod

Contact: Louise Macleod, EMMS louise.macleod@emms.org 0131 313 3828