Mother care group advocates for health post

Three buildings—two of medium size and one which is large enough—have been built to almost window level with cement blocks in the midst of farmlands and forests.

This is in Chivwamba in Group Village Head (GVH) Mkhutamata Phiri in Traditional Authority Mthwalo in Mzimba District. Chivwamba is one of the remotest areas in Malawi, with bad access roads and without essential facilities and services.

Though not finished, the buildings look magnificent with the glittering light-grey cement blocks and already improved the face of the area.

Once finished, the three buildings will be known as Chivwamba Health Post. There will be the main hospital building and two staff houses—one for a medical assistant and another for a Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA).

This has ignited high hopes for improved access to health services among people in the area.

The amazing story is that the facility, being constructed through Mzimba North District Health Office, came due to the successful advocacy of Chivwamba Mother Care Group (MCG), which has 30 members.

The MCG, which started in 2019, also helps in improving child immunization coverage in Chivwamba and the entire Kamwe health catchment area in Mzimba.

Chivwamba MCG Chairperson, Joyce Makwakwa, expressed her group’s gratitude for successfully advocating for the health post, emphasizing that the facility will further improve child immunization coverage and provide access to other health services.

“We fully embrace the project, knowing that it has come because of our efforts. We will continue advocating so that construction is completed soon and other illnesses begin to be treated right here. The facility and staff based here will be serving people from Chivwamba and surrounding areas,” said Makwakwa.

The group is one of the 33 MCGs in Mzimba, established through the Health Systems Strengthening Program (HSSP) funded by GAVI through the Ministry of Health. Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) and several other stakeholders implement the program in nine districts.

HSSP trains and introduces MCGs as tools for improving child immunization coverage and advocates for improved health services provision.

Chivwamba MCG started operating in a humble church building, administering vaccines to under five children in order to immunize them against tuberculosis, polio and measles, among other illnesses.

The group later built its own under five shelter and HSA house next to the plot for the health post, with support from chiefs and community members.

According to Makwakwa, before the MCG came on the scene, immunization coverage in Chivwamba was below 10 children per month as most mothers failed to walk the 18 kilometer long distance to Kamwe Health Centre to access under five and antenatal services.

“We are now hovering between 30 to 35 children per month. This is because we have the vaccines right here on the immunization day, which come all the way from Kamwe Health Centre by ambulance or motorcycle.

“We also go door to door, tracing children who default immunization and ensure that they get vaccinated. We also conduct sensitizations, dispelling all myths and fears impinging on child immunization.

“We are fully aware that immunizing children against diseases is key to their personal health, growth, education and development,” Makwakwa said.

Chivwamba HSA, Rodah Chitete, cherished working with Chivwamba MCG, saying the mothers are really working hard and simplifying her work, more especially on child immunization.

“My plea is that construction of the health post should finish soon for access to health services is really a big challenge here.

“Once the facility becomes operational, people with various illnesses will no longer walk to Kamwe and other faraway health centers,” said Chitete, who disclosed that about 5000 people will be served by the facility.

Kamwe Health Centre Senior Health Surveillance Assistant, Macbeth Kayira, confessed that Chivwamba MCG has helped push immunization to 45 or 48 children per month in the entire Kamwe health catchment area, representing 81 percent coverage rate.

Apparently, the target for the catchment area is 57 children per month.

“Otherwise minus the MCG, factoring in the mountainous terrain and long distances here, we would not achieve that. We, therefore, need more of these MCGs in order to achieve even 100 percent immunization coverage.

“Chivwamba MCG also helps us in identifying the sick so that they go to seek relevant medical care. The sooner the construction of the health post is completed in the area and medical personnel provided, the better,” Kayira said.

GVH Mkhutamata Phiri commended HSSP for “opening up the women in his area to be able to advocate for useful things that benefit community members”.

MHEN Assistant Project Officer, Helbert Chakwawa, urged Chivwamba MCG to continue coordinating and cooperating with chiefs and community members in improving child immunization coverage in their area.

“More focus should be on dispelling myths, religious beliefs and many other misconceptions impinging on child immunization work.

“We are engaging our donors for more financing in order to establish more MCGs in Kamwe health catchment area and many other places in Malawi.

“We agree with the observation that MCGs are playing a critical role in advocating for improved provision of health services,” Chakwawa said.

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