Community educators keep track of bed net distributions in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe.
By Julia Kayser*
June 29, 2012 — Even though malaria is both preventable and treatable, the World Health Organization estimates that 13,600 malaria-related deaths occur in Zimbabwe every year. Zimbabwe’s National Malaria Control Programme calls for the distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor residual spraying as part of its malaria-prevention campaign. UMCOR is using its net distribution expertise to help implement this program in Chimanimani District in eastern Zimbabwe. The program is funded by United Nations Foundation, a partner of The United Methodist Church. In addition, UMCOR is partnering with local communities to get the word out about how to prevent malaria and recognize its symptoms.
Some of the strategies used to get information into people’s hands are community meetings, brochures, and posters in the local languages, and even dramas and road shows! “Our continuous mobilization and education of the community towards delivering essential malaria action messages will bring very encouraging behavior changes,” writes Taneal Kamuzungu, UMCOR’s Special Projects manager in Zimbabwe.
To date, UMCOR has also distributed 23,307 bed nets to a total of 36,575 beneficiaries in six target wards of Chimanimani District. Chief Gudyanga, an important public figure in Chimanimani, made a statement of thanks for the nets and added, “Anyone caught misusing the nets in any way will pay a fine of three goats.” The support of local leaders like Chief Gudyanga is crucial to the success of this malaria control program.
Another way that UMCOR builds strong leadership is training community educators. These dedicated volunteers go door to door in their villages and conduct sensitization meetings. They become neighborhood organizers and champions of the cause. Sister Sibanda, the Nurse in Charge at Nyanyadzi Clinic, reports, “These days, people are seeking treatment… because of the information being passed to them by the trained community educators.” Early detection improves the prognosis dramatically.
As UMCOR continues its malaria control program in Chimanimani, partnerships between United Methodist churches in Zimbabwe and the United States are deepening. The Kansas West Annual Conference signed a Chabadza Covenant in 2010 with the Zimbabwe church. Chabadza is a Shona word that roughly translates to “people in relationship working alongside each other for mutual benefit.” Chabadza is given only to people whom you know, and it is given because when one person succeeds, both people succeed. The covenant invites partnerships to be formed at many levels: conference, district, local church, and even between individual pastors.
This year, Bishop Scott Jones of Kansas West has challenged every congregation in the conference to become involved with Imagine No Malaria in some way. Kansas is raising funds in the spirit of supporting their covenant relationship with Zimbabwe. “We’re looking forward to building on a partnership we already have to include work in the area of malaria,” says Lisa Diehl, Communications director for The United Methodist Church in Kansas.
UMCOR also looks forward to these partnerships. Shannon Trilli, executive director of UMCOR Global Health, writes, “Since UMCOR works with Annual Conference Health Boards across Africa to implement Imagine No Malaria programs, we are pleased to see US Annual Conferences get involved in ways that resonate with them.”
Personal connections—whether they’re between community educators and their neighbors or among local churches on different continents—can serve as catalysts for better health.
*Julia Kayser is a writer and regular contributor to www.umcor.org. She gives special thanks to Nomalanga Matanga, UMCOR Zimbabwe, for her valued contributions to this article.