By Rebecca Phwitiko, UNICEF Malawi
It is a rare sight in these parts. Two trucks carrying 40 foot containers are making their way into Gonda Village in Chikwawa, Malawi. Excited children run behind the trucks as their parents try to contain their own excitement. The Village Headman for Gonda cannot recall ever seeing vehicles this big in the area. “We had to dig up the road to make it easy for the trucks to pass and get to our village. We have been waiting for this day, it is indeed a dream come true” the Village Headman explains while women sing happily in the background.
The two trucks arrive at their destination; a sports field at Gonda Primary School. Here, hundreds from Gonda and surrounding villages are gathered. Daniela Pico, Head of Strategic Partnerships for the Swiss-based company, Mediterrean Shipping Company (MSC) Cruises tells the crowd gathered “We are back in Gonda Village, just like we promised a year and a half ago.” The villagers clap loudly as the women break into song and captivating traditional dancing.
MSC support to children of Malawi
MSC Cruises has been funding a UNICEF programme to reduce malnutrition-related deaths and illnesses among under-five children in the Chikwawa District and other parts of Malawi. This support includes provision of therapeutic food and medicine to treat malnourished children at home and in health facilities.
During a programme visit in March 2016, the Executive Chairman of MSC cruises, Pierfrancesco Vago and his team interacted with some volunteers in Gonda Village; men and women who were trained to spot malnourished children, refer them for treatment and teach mothers and caregivers to prevent malnutrition by preparing nutritious meals and practising good sanitation in the home.
Vago was impressed with the work of the community volunteers and health workers in Chikwawa. He promised to return with a donation of bicycles and agricultural inputs to support the work of the volunteers in improving child nutrition in Gonda Village.
Today that promise has come true. MSC is presenting its donation to the people of Gonda; bicycles, agricultural inputs like hoes and picks, pots, and materials for child care centres and primary school pupils. MSC has also donated bicycles and mattresses to health centres in Chikwawa District.
Empowering community volunteers
In rural Malawi, just as in many parts of rural Africa a bicycle is gold. It means you can get around easily in the remotest areas which are not serviced by the public transport system. One can run a successful bicycle taxi business and even transport building materials and farm produce to and from markets. For Mary Amosi, one of the volunteers who received a bicycle, it means she will reach more children and caregivers with vital nutrition information and support. She says it will make her job easier and her days more productive. “I no longer have to walk long distances to do home visits. Having a bicycle means that in a day I can visit children in their homes and still be able to get back in time to do other things around my house,” she explains.
It is certainly a memorable day in Gonda Village. Everyone is going away with something; a bicycle, hoes, shovels, and pots for the community volunteers and leaders as well as colouring books, blackboards and soccer balls for the school children.