Life was a mistily for people in Sazola Village, GVH Sazola, Traditional Authority Mabuka in Mulanje due to absence of an under-five clinic in the area. Most pregnant mothers and mothers with under five children did not have an interest to visit the under-five clinic at Mulanje District Hospital which is located at a distance of about a three-hour walk. As such there were high neonatal and maternal complications in the area. Some pregnant mothers and newly born babies lost their lives due to complications that come with child birth. Precisely, of the 100 births which occurred in the area, over 20 of them resulted to complications of which others resulted to deaths of either the mother or the newly born baby.
Through the initiatives under the Health Communication for Life (HC4L) project which is being implemented by CRECCOM and FHI 360 with funding from USAID, the community members of GVH Sazola and the surrounding areas have a different story to tell. Zofuna Community Theatre Group and Sazola Radio Listening club, which were introduced and trained by HC4L project, took a leading role to disseminate health messages in their communities and mobilize community members to demand health services from public servants especially those working in the health sector.
Things took a new turn in 2020 after Zofuna CTG and Sazola RLC members were oriented on the HC4L initiative called Wheel of Lifesaving Practice. The Wheel of Life saving Practice (hereafter referred to as chiongolero) is an interactive poster that is used to improve health behaviors that are related to Maternal, New born and Child health (MNCH), Family planning and Sexual reproductive health (FP/RH), Nutrition, Malaria, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)which HC4L Project in liaison with Ministry of Health – Health Education Services (MOH-HES), ONSE Athanzi, Tiwalere II and other partners, developed to facilitate and support targeted interpersonal communication to improve health outcomes for pregnant women and under 2 children among others. The wheel is a key tool kit used by community mobilizers such as RLCs, Community Theatre Groups (CTGs), Community Health Action Groups (CHAGs), Village Health Committees (VHCs), among others to deliver standardized messages on pregnancy and child care. Both clubs (Sazola RLC and Zofuna CTG) received twenty copies of the wheel which they used to reach out to their surrounding communities with various messages that HC4L project is advocating for.
Through the work of Zofuna CTG and Sazola RLC, the community members in GVH Sazola were encouraged to visit the under-five clinics regularly to ensure that maternal and neonatal related deaths are prevented. Most community members welcomed the information and started following what they were taught. They saw and experienced the importance of taking under five children to the clinic as the maternal and neonatal deaths in the area started declining. However, distance to the under-five clinic was a major barrier and due to poverty, most households could not find transport money to hire motorcycle tax which are readily available in the area. Most families encountered a lot of challenges. Some resorted to walking to the clinic but due to fatigue, most couple’s or women could not continue. Worse still, due to distance, Males were not participating in under five issues. To ease their burden, people of GVH Sazola started demanding for an under-five clinic in their area. The authorities in the area in conjunction with the ministry of health officials (the Health Surveillance Assistant and the IEC Focal person) agreed to open an under-five clinic in the area. The under-five clinic was established in a building owned by a company that specializes in agricultural inputs and products called NASFAM and this is a place where farmers initially used to sell their agricultural produce.
According to William Gomiwa, the under-5 clinic is now serving a population of 1034 under 5 children from eighteen villages in GVH Sazola. Of these, 568 are males and 466 are females. “Several services are being offered at this clinic which include immunization of under five children, family planning methods and Community Child Management (CCM)”, said Gomiwa. The community members in GVH Sazola are now happy because they are able to access health services within their locality.
Ebbie Thabwa is one the beneficiary of the new under-five clinic established in GVH Sazola. She was filled with tears of joy when the under-five clinic was finally within her village. Narrating her ordeal, she claimed that before the coming of the under-five clinic in the area, life was tough because she had to walk in the scorching sun for 3 hours just to access under-5 clinic services at Mulanje district hospital.
“Life was tough especially to us women when there was no under five-clinic in this area,” she recounted. After giving birth, I had to walk for three hours to get my child immunized. Now that we have an under-five clinic within our area, we are full of smiles and we thank HC4L project for the effort they did to ensure that the authorities should give us this clinic,” said Ebbie with a smile on her face.
On his part, Blessings Bandawe, who is the chairperson for Sazola RLC said the coming of the under-five clinic in the area of GVH Sazola has helped them to know and encourage those who deliberately shun from attending under-5 clinic because now the clinic is within their reach. He further said that, through the establishment of the under-5, they have realized that the club members have a lot of work of sensitizing the communities on the importance of visiting the under-five clinic with their children. “Most women are coming to the clinic with their children for immunization because the clinic is now within their reach. After receiving the Moyo ndi Mpamba messages, we had sensitization meetings and the under-five clinic was revamped,” said Blessings.