Chief Muusha of Chimanimani addresses the community gathered for Imagine No Malaria launch.
By Julia Kayser*
December 21, 2012—Chimanimani District is a rural area about six hours east of Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare. On December 11, the East Zimbabwe Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church hosted a ceremony in the village of Biriwiri to celebrate the conference’s anti-malaria efforts as part of the church’s Imagine No Malaria (INM) initiative.
Present at the ceremony were representatives from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the Kansas West Annual Conference, headed by Bishop Scott Jones, along with local government and traditional leaders.
The celebration was a preamble to a distribution in the area next month of malaria-fighting, insecticide-treated bed nets. These nets protect people from the anopheles mosquito, which transmits malaria. In Chimanimani, more than 9,000 households registered in wards will benefit from the 22,000 mosquito nets that will be distributed through INM.
UMCOR’s malaria-control program, which supports INM, currently operates in six of the 23 wards of Chimanimani District. This month, with funding from the United Nations Foundation, UMCOR has expanded its program coverage to include an additional six wards. The program focuses on the community, involving local people in the planning and decision-making processes that impact their health status.
During last week’s celebration, District Administrator Wilson Borwe, representing the Zimbabwean government, and Chief Muusha, a local traditional leader, both lauded UMCOR’s efforts in providing assistance to this underserved region of the country. UMCOR began programming here earlier in 2012.
This will be the first official distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets in Chimanimani District, a mountainous and sparsely populated region where travel is quite challenging. Inhabitants rely on step-farming along the mountain slopes, where they primarily grow corn, basic crops, and vegetables, and raise livestock for their subsistence.
The nearly 150 people attending the event attested to the collaboration within and beyond Zimbabwe, including community, civil, and church groups that have all joined forces and voices to stress the importance of malaria prevention and saving lives. Chief Muusha encouraged those gathered to use the mosquito nets that they will receive properly and consistently.
“Both the chief and local government officials reinforced at the launch what had been said by representatives of both medical institutions and the church,” said Jen Schumacher-Kocik, grant manager for Imagine No Malaria. “This connection with the community is important to ensure that the project achieves its goal and that the message is spread to those who were not present at the event.”
Trainings to sensitize local leaders about the importance of malaria control have been held at the district and ward levels. Government officials, village health workers, school health coordinators, employees of partnering nongovernmental organizations, and caregivers all have participated.
UMCOR will work with the village health workers to follow up with families after the nets have been distributed to ensure that everyone is using them properly. Engaging these community health workers from the targeted communities not only facilitates the distribution; it also promotes ownership and sustainability of the project.
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*Julia Kayser is a writer and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.