Malaria/Cholera Response Integration bears fruits

Wednesday 15 March 2023

CHAGs and Community Nurses demonstrate how to use a Mosquito net

Health officials in Salima are touting a Breakthrough Action Malaria Project which, apart from tackling the disease, also assisting in the fight against the Cholera Outbreak.

Through the USAID funded project, which is being implemented by Save the Children and John Hopkins, community health volunteers have been trained to champion Cholera prevention.

The three-year project initially trained the volunteers - Community Health Action Groups (CHAGs) on how to encourage social behavior change among community members to better prevent Malaria. The CHAGs have been conducting sensitization campaigns to bring about mindset change in the prevention of the diseases.

For example, the CHAGs have managed to remove some of the myths associated with treated mosquito nets where some people used to believe that sleeping in a treated net could lead to impotence while some used to liken the nets with coffins.

But since the intervention started demand and utilization of the nets has gone up.

The initiative has also led to a reduction of Malaria cases, according to Salima District Environmental Officer Reuben Chikadza.

“But not only that, we have also seen that the CHAGs have influenced good health and hygiene practices among the populations, we have seen the people draining swamps, washing hands whenever they come from the toilets or change diapers a development that has also led to a reduction in cholera and COVID-19 cases,” Chikadza said.

He also said that through open days and sensitization meetings, the groups have managed to demystify several issues such as the cholera and COVID-19 vaccines.

“Before this intervention, our uptake of the vaccines as a district was hovering around 5-11 percent, but now we are at 18 percent which is a very big increase and contribution, and we are happy that the project has helped us to break through cultural and religious barriers to inoculation,” Chikadza says.

The Breakthrough Action Malaria project started being implemented in Salima in October 2022.

The project’s manager Victor Kadzinje concurs with Chikadza saying the CHAGs have been instrumental in ensuring behaviour change among the populations.

Kadzinje says the project has been leaning more on the prevention side a situation that has reduced the burden even at district level.

“The CHAGs have influenced a change in the negative attitudes that communities used to have when it comes to treated nets, vaccines and health seeking behaviour,” Kadzinje said.

Among other things, the project has also encouraged people to start going to the hospital whenever they are not feeling well, a sharp contrast to previously when the people used to buy drugs on their own without prescription.