The Billy Riordan Memorial Clinic in Chembe Village, Cape Maclear

Billy’s Clinic as it is known locally is a rural health centre providing much needed primary healthcare services to a remote community of 20,000 people who live on the Cape Maclear peninsular in Malawi. They previously had to travel more than 20km to access any medical care at all and it is still several hours drive from Chembe village to the nearest District Hospital.

The clinic was set up in 2004 by Mags Riordan after her son Billy tragically drowned in nearby Lake Malawi. In 2007 a small in-patient unit was added and medical care is now available around the clock to the local population of subsistence farmers and fishermen thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers and locally trained care staff. In the rainy season anything from 100 to 200 sick patients are treated every day and the clinic has become a lifesaver especially for the many children with malaria for whom time is often of the essence. Other conditions commonly seen include trauma, malnutrition, gastroenteritis, dysentery, bilharzia, asthma and pneumonia. A separate HIV/Aids clinic is run in an adjacent building and sees an average of 1500 patients each month.  

The unreliable National Grid in Malawi means that the clinic has its own generator and solar power supply as well as its own borehole for water. It also has its own ambulance to transfer urgent cases and emergencies to hospital.

Dr Nick and Claudine worked at the clinic as volunteers for 4 months in 2018 and the many generous donations they received from Guernsey people before they went allowed them to replenish the clinic’s stock of medicines and equipment. They have kept in touch with the clinic ever since and get regular updates as to its day-to-day and development needs.

This is the story of the clinic in the words of its founder Mags Riordan;

“In February 1999 my only son Billy was drowned in Lake Malawi. He was just twenty-five. He had visited the small African country on several occasions and had grown to love the country, its people and in particular the village of Cape Maclear. It was ironic that in his last letter to me he referred to Cape Maclear as paradise. He lost his life in paradise less than 48 hours later. One year on in February 2000 I travelled to Cape Maclear to place a memorial stone by the Lake in his memory. I spent three months there getting to know the villagers and their way of life. I returned to the village five times over the next two and a half years spending some time teaching in the primary school. I wanted to identify a project to undertake in the village in Billy’s memory. An outbreak of cholera and continual deaths from Malaria and simple childhood diseases very soon made me realize that a medical clinic in the village was not just necessary but essential. For these people medical treatment was almost non-existent. There was no clinic, doctor or nurse here and the nearest hospital was in Mangochi, a difficult four hour journey away”.