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COMMUNITY-LED STRATEGIES IN TIMES OF COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Updated: Mar 6

Fanizo Rex appreciating CLM in one of the project’s meetings


Selina Kholiwo, a dedicated member trained under the Community Led Monitoring (CLM) program as part of the COVID-19 Response Mechanism project by the Creative Centre for Community Mobilisation (CRECCOM) in Thyolo district, sheds light on the myriad health issues plaguing the region. Kholiwo, along with fellow community members, undertook the training to address health concerns related to COVID-19, Malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS specifically in Traditional Authority Mbawera.


Following the CLM training, Kholiwo and her team convened with local chiefs, youth representatives, support groups for HIV/AIDS patients, and pregnant women from various areas, including Phodogoma, Salijeni, Konzalendo, Thyoloma, and Mbawera. The primary focus was on monitoring the health challenges faced by these groups when seeking services in health facilities under Traditional Authority Mbawera.


Kholiwo reveals that after these meetings, several critical issues emerged.


She explains, "One of the problems was that people were not aware of what COVID-19 was about and how to deal with it. On top of that, since it was the time when COVID-19 hit hard in Malawi, the Government of Malawi through the Ministry of Health were vaccinating people in the country as a way of reducing further spread of the virus, but a lot of people were detesting from receiving such vaccines."


School closures also contributed to unexpected pregnancies among girls in TA Mbawera, as they lost hope of a return to normalcy.


Kholiwo adds, "It was evident that most of the support groups even stopped going to Mapanga health centre to receive their ARVs since they feared that they are going to be tested for COVID-19, and this made a lot of them die as they could not nurse themselves as the doctors would."


Furthermore, support groups refrained from visiting health centers to receive their ARVs due to fears of COVID-19 testing, resulting in preventable deaths.


Kholiwo notes, "There were a number of myths that also circulated among support groups to say that if they pray a lot to God in their churches, then they are going to be healed from HIV/AIDS, and that if they noticed that their CD4 is becoming low then they should stop taking the medication. This made a lot of patients die."


TB patients faced similar challenges, avoiding health facilities for fear of COVID-19 testing, compounded by the absence of essential medications like Bactrim and testing kits for TB in facilities like Mapanga.


Fanizo Rex, the CLM chairperson, highlights the complaints from support groups about a single designated day for ARV distribution, breaching privacy.


He explains, "Support groups used to be exposed to their friends at the hospital, and the friends could tell who has HIV/AIDS and not. This was so because Mapanga Health center dedicated Wednesdays for a special day for support groups."


Pregnant women in the region encountered problems, being transferred to Thyolo district hospital without receiving mosquito nets, a situation promptly rectified through CLM interventions.


Rex states, "Women used to complain that they were being transferred to Thyolo district hospital and not being offered mosquito nets. Health specialists from Thyolo district hospital used to tell them they must get nets from Mapanga health center where mosquito nets were not even provided."


Youths in TA Mbawera voiced discomfort with the location of condom dispensers at Mapanga health center, prompting a resolution.


Rex shares, "They were supposed to enter into a certain office and meet a certain officer to get or receive the condoms, and they complained that this restricted them from having privacy. As such, this was resolved by consulting health specialists at Mapanga health center."


In a heartening turn of events, the CLM team successfully advocated for the return of five pregnant girls from Kasupe primary school to continue their education after childbirth. Their children are being cared for at Mapanga Community-Based Child Care Centers (CBCCs).

Chrisy Ligwalanya, another member of CLM, details various awareness campaigns conducted in collaboration with health specialists.


She says, "Such myths included that if they receive COVID-19 vaccines, they will turn into scary birds, and other wild animals, hence, people stopped going to their nearby health facilities."


As Ligwalanya emphasizes, the team conducted awareness campaigns to dispel myths, emphasize the reality of the virus, and promote the importance of vaccination and testing. "We even went further to share with them the importance of taking vaccines and even being tested for COVID-19. This was done with the help from health specialists from Mapanga health center."

 

 

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