Participants in a United Methodist Laity Academy at Africa University don Imagine No Malaria tee-shirts proudly sponsored by the office of the health board coordinator.
By Julia Kayser*
February 22, 2013—Hannah Mafunda serves as coordinator of the health board of the Zimbabwe Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Health boards are made up of health professionals, community leaders, and church leaders who guide the church’s health-care initiatives in their country or region.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has trained 12 annual conference health boards serving populations in 16 countries in Africa. This is part of UMCOR’s strategy for holistic and sustainable change in matters of health and health care.
Health boards are responsible for identifying health-care priorities, envisioning solutions, and monitoring the progress of existing projects. In Zimbabwe as elsewhere in Africa, the health board is concerned with issues related to mother and child survival, HIV and AIDS, malaria, preventive care and health education, among others.
Daniel Tripp, who heads up UMCOR’s mission in Zimbabwe, writes that Hannah Mafunda “has made an exceptional contribution to enhancing coordination between the UMCOR country office and the United Methodist Church.” He’s impressed with her commitment, integrity, and solid health-care background.
Here are Mafunda’s responses to some common questions about her work.
Q: What is your favorite thing about coordinating a health board?
A: My favorite thing is working in a health-related environment. Health has always been my passion area. Working for my church is also a plus for me.
Q: What is your vision for the health board?
A: Our goal is to ensure that the United Methodist hospitals, clinics, and health-related programs provide holistic, affordable, and accessible delivery of health services. We want The United Methodist Church to become a household name in health-care delivery.
Q: What are the main challenges for providing health care in your country?
A: The main challenges in Zimbabwe are that the country has experienced severe deterioration in infrastructure, lack of investments, low wages, decreasing motivation and capacity of the civil service, and absolute shortage of essential supplies and commodities.
Q: What has the health board done to address these challenges, and what positive results have you seen?
A: The health board is working at strengthening community-based programs, and bringing basic primary health care to the people. All the United Methodist health institutions are based in rural areas where the most challenged population of Zimbabwe lives, and the board is reaching out to these communities with its programs.
Q: Can you tell us about a specific case where the health board improved someone's life?
A: The health board through its health institutions has constructed and improved shelters where expectant mothers are brought in anticipation of their due date. This has saved a lot of lives. The health board also has saved lives by training village health workers in malaria case management, training home-based caregivers in palliative care, and HIV/AIDS programs.
Your gift to Health Systems Strengthening, UMCOR Advance #982168, supports UMCOR’s work to build up United Methodist health boards in Africa and ensure their independence.
*Julia Kayser is a writer and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.