Malaria kills around one million people each year, mainly children and pregnant women. Malaria in pregnancy is a major cause of maternal mortality and of low birth weight, which predisposes to neonatal mortality . A single episode of Malaria in the first trimester of pregnancy can cause miscarriage , thus emphasizing the danger of Malaria on pregnant women. Fortunately, Health communication for Life (HC4L), a Social Behavioral Change Communication project funded by USAID is trying to encourage prompt health seeking behaviors amongst people in areas of Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH), family planning (FP), Nutrition, and Malaria prevention and treatment among others.
The project is in 10 districts and Machinga is one of them. The Project is working with well-trained ten radio listening cubs (RLCs) and four Community Theatre Groups (CTGs) from the two Traditional Authorities of Ngokwe and Nyambi. Nkapalira CTG of T/A Ngokwe is one of the local structures being used and has fully utilized the concept of theatre for development (TFD) and home visits to address different health-related issues in their area. “Being a club that is close to Lake Chirwa, Malaria is one common health problem that the club usually addresses during TFD performance/community dialogue sessions. This is so because most households do not sleep in mosquito nets but rather use them for fishing in Lake Chirwa which is the sauce for income to most families” says Mr. Symon Zuze who is the Chairperson for Nkapalira CTG.
Ever since Nkapalira CTG began conducting community outreach activities under HC4L Project, there has been a great change with a lot of people abandoning the behavior of using mosquito nets for fishing and pregnant women have begun going for early ANC supported by their husbands unlike before. Kaifa Rajabu, a 24-year-old girl, who is a caretaker of a three weeks old baby and unmarried is one of the women who benefitted from the TFD performances that Nkapalira CTG conducted because it is through one of the CTGs performances in Nteuka that she got enlightened on the dangers of Malaria and the importance of a pregnant woman to be sleeping in a mosquito net together with the entire household.
During the time that Kaifa attended the performance, she was two months pregnant for her second child and she had not yet started attending ANC. As she watched the performance, she could relate to what had happened to her during her first pregnancy where she had a miscarriage at 3 months after being diagnosed with Malaria. She was prompted to approach one of the members of the CTG, Ireen Chiudzu right after their performance to hear more on how she can take care of her pregnancy until she reaches full term. “Kaifa approached me after our activity in their village, Nteuka, asking me a lot of questions on how she can protect her pregnancy and I explained to her more on the dangers of Malaria to a pregnant woman and I also told her that I will visit her home so that I give her the wheel of life savings practices which will help her adopt health-seeking behaviors.”
The visit to Kaifa’s home was conducted the following day by the Chair of the club and Ireen Chiudzu where they discovered that she had not yet started attending ANC and she does not have a mosquito net. They immediately encouraged her to go for ANC and Cromwell Kabango, their patron, who is also the HSA at Ngokwe Health Centre made sure she was well received and got her mosquito net. Also, she got support from Nkapalira CTG members through follow-up home visits using the wheel of life-saving practices. This yielded great results as Kaifa Rajab gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Mercy Tennis.
Nkapalira CTG is a club that comprises youthful members and they reach out to two village Headman in T/A Ngokwe which have a total of thirty-two villages. The club disseminates Moyo ndi Mpamba health messages under the HC4L Project. Currently, they have reduced the number of TFD Performances to adhere to the COVID 19 restrictions. However, they still utilize the home visits whereby two members visit home at a time to ensure that they are still encouraging people to adopt the health-seeking behaviors that the HC4L Project emphasizes.
R McGready, SJ Lee, J Wiladphaingern, EA Ashley, MJ Rijken, M Boel,JA Simpson, MK Paw, M Pimanpanarak, Oh Mu, P Singhasivason, NJ White, FH Nosten. Adverse effects of falciparum and vivax malaria and the safety of antimalarial treatment in early pregnancy: a population based study.The Lancet Infectious diseases,2011; DOI: 10,1016/S14733099(11)70339-5