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Listening, trying, winning: how a radio agenda is changing mindsets

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By Yankho Phiri:

EQUIPPED – Madzi

At a time some communities think that it is the government’s responsibility to take care of public health facilities, the story is different among people of traditional authorities (T/As) Wimbe and Chilowamatambe in Kasungu District.

Courtesy of radio listening clubs, people in the areas listen to teachings on a special radio programme, Moyo ndi Mpamba [life is a treasure] and then practice what they learn.

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The radio listening clubs were established in September 2017 by Creative Centre for Community Mobilisation (Creccom) following the introduction of Health Communication for Life (HC4L) Project.

Apart from Kasungu, the project is being implemented in Dowa, Mchinji and Lilongwe districts with funding from USAid.

Through the project, the non-governmental organisation has been engaging people and encouraging them to participate in promotion of health issues and development of their communities.

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Among other things, the HC4L, through Moyo ndi Mpamba and community theatres, encourages people to take care of government facilities, observe good sanitation and use contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Radio listening club members gather around a radio receiver which they were given through the project to listen to the programme.

Exactly one year after the introduction of the project, people in the two T/As testify to have improved a lot, both at individual and community level.

Chairperson of Kachokolo Radio Listening Club, Gideon Banda, says the club’s members roofed two toilets at Wimbe Health Centre which had stayed unroofed for almost two years.

HAZARDOUS – Some communities drink water like this

This was after being taught how they could take care of government facilities like hospitals and schools through the Moyo ndi Mpamba radio programme.

“At first, we never thought that we had the responsibility of taking care of government facilities. But after being taught through Moyo ndi Mpamba, we considered it wise to raise funds on our own to buy the materials we used in roofing the two toilets,” Banda says.

He adds that communities realised that their unwillingness to freely participate in some social and public works was making their lives miserable.

The Moyo ndi Mpamba radio programme has also taught communities to ensure that they drink potable water.

“At first, we never minded drinking untreated water. We could rely on government, through the Ministry of Health, to provide us with chlorine; and once government was not forthcoming, we could drink untreated water. Now we buy Waterguard on our own,” he says.

He says, as a radio listening club, they are lobbying communities around Wimbe Health Centre to always drink treated water.

Kanthu Madzi of Chikondi Radio Listening Club from the area of Group Village Headman (GVH) Kapyanga T/A Wimbe, corroborates Banda’s sentiments.

He says, through Moyo ndi Mpamba, they have learnt the importance of owning vegetable gardens at household level to have easy access to nutrition supplements.

“We are taught through radio that a healthy human body needs six food groups. It is simpler to grow our own vegetables than buy the same,” he says.

Another radio listening club, Kasiya, in the area of GVH Kalufu, is proud to have served its community by repairing a borehole which broke down years ago.

The club’s chairperson, Ephida Nkhoma, says they repaired the water point after realising that villagers were forced to drink from unsafe wells and streams.

“The borehole is our only source of safe water. Before the project, we were in the dark and subjected ourselves to frequent diarrhoea.

“Moyo ndi Mpamba programmes have been an eye opener. We have raised money on our own to repair the borehole and give the whole community safe water,” Nkhoma says.

Chairperson of Wimbe Area Development Committee (ADC), Binary Jamu, is an excited man.

Jamu says it was a pity to see people failing to practice hygiene on their own and participate in development activities without the support of civil society organisations and other stakeholders.

“We are singing a different song now. People are taking part in development activities at community level without being told by the ADC, thanks to radio listening clubs,” Jamu says.

The good news has impressed Jartel Banda, a Health Surveillance Assistant at Wimbe Health Centre.

He says, since its commencement, his work has eased as theatre groups help to pass health massages to communities through songs and drama.

“Theatre groups are playing a major role in communicating health messages to T/As community members. One example is diarrhoea cases that have decreased because of the messages.

“People pay attention to, and practice, what they learn from the plays, an indication that they welcome the massages underlain in the plays,” Banda says.

Health Promotion Officer at Kasungu District Health Office, Catherine Yoweri, descibes the impact of Moyo ndi Mpamba as far-reaching.

“Communities in TAs Chilowamatambe and Wimbe have started promoting health- related development projects on their own. The gesture will save government money which could have been spent on drugs to cure preventable diseases,” Yoweri says.—Mana

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