By: Mphatso Thole
With support from the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa (LUCSA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi (ELCM) has been reaching out to people in hard-to-reach areas along the Lakeshore of Lake Malawi, in the fight against Malaria and HIV & AIDS as community members become conversant with malaria prevention and care.
The Malaria prevention, control and impact mitigation project was launched by the ELCM in 2013. Community members living in the three districts of Mangochi, Salima and Nkhotakota, along the lakeshore of Lake Malawi are able to plan and implement developmental activities such as sanitation of villages, community development and self-reliance.
Francis Njoka, a Community Based Educator (CBE) trained by ELCM in Mangochi Deanery said, “When ELCM conducted several advocacy activities in Salima, Mangochi and Nkhotakota districts our eyes were opened. We started thinking outside of the box and planning how we can mitigate the impact of malaria. At the start, the project supported us with mosquito nets. After being oriented in how to establish and run Village Lending Savings Associations (VLSA), we were able to purchase nets for ourselves.”
Grace Nguluwe, one of the beneficiaries from the malaria program in Salima Deanery, who collaborated with Njoka said, “The program has been effective for us. We have a built a village clinic here at Chigumukire. Members of the church as well as community mobilized local resources making bricks and providing sand. Additional support came from the ELCM Head Office. Now we no longer need to take our children and pregnant mothers to a distant clinic if malaria attacks us.”
Advocacy played a big role during the project period with the result that the Government of Malawi was convinced to build a village clinic in Chimvano area in Mangochi. The ELCM worked hard to fight for the rights of people who who did not have a medical centre or facility nearby. “The Church promoted advocacy in Mangochi district. There was a very big challenge in Chimvano, one of the hardest to reach areas without a health centre. Community members had to travel 15 kilometres from Chimvano to the Roman Catholic Hospital to access health services, and for that matter also had to pay for the service. They had to travel 50 kilometres to the free Government hospital in Mangochi town. But with ELCM advocacy initiatives, members mobilized bricks and other basic resources, and eventually a clinic was constructed within the Chimvano area. This took almost two years to complete”. Rev Peterson Bandecha of Mangochi Parish thanked the ELCM for its support.
Rev Alick Msuku, the ELCM Programs and Projects Director, formerly Assistant Project Coordinator said the project ran from 2013 to 2020.
Msuku explained that the project, which was in two phases, brought a great change to the communities. “The Church trained 28 CBEs of whim 12 were female and 16 males. We distributed 6,500 mosquito nets and trained 85 individuals and 30 different groups in malaria prevention and control initiatives. Not only that, we oriented 50 groups in VLSAs. Even though the program has been phased out the Church is witnessing a significant achievement as most of targeted participants are able to buy mosquito nets and address other social needs for themselves, based on the knowledge gained in how to protect themselves from malaria. On top of that we have information of how malaria cases have been reduced in the impact areas,” said Msuku.