By Rebecca Phwitiko, UNICEF Malawi
It is mid-morning in Mangumba village in Zomba, Southern Malawi, and Neverson Nazombe’s day is off to a good start. An hour before, he set up a health clinic under a tree and asked mothers from the surrounding houses to join him with their children, under the age of five. About 20 women came.
First, Neverson, a community health worker, spoke to them about the critical and preventive services that he and other health workers across the country were providing. He then proceeded to hand out a range of treatments- vitamin A, albendazole, vaccines and malnutrition screening.
Done with this group of 20, Neverson moved on to the other side of the village. He does a few house calls before meeting another group of 20 or so mothers and their children in a central location close to a borehole.
Neverson has been a community health worker for 12 years, providing primary health care to children under the age of five in this community. This week, known as Child Health Days, he has an important task: to reach all children under five in his area with a package of preventive medicines.
These include vitamin A supplements to boost immunity and prevent blindness, de-worming tablets to treat intestinal worms and prevent anemia, routine immunizations, and monitoring for malnutrition.
Child Health Days is a Government of Malawi campaign that UNICEF and partners such as USAID support. It brings critical, life-saving services to children in remote areas.During the Child Health Day campaign last June, health workers across the country reached 2.1 million children.
“For me, every day must be a Child Health Day. It is important for us to provide preventive services and messages to parents and their children because we know that this saves lives,” says Neverson.
Mangumba village is a long way from a health facility and the need here is great. Emily Peter, 33, lives at one of the houses Nazombe called by today. Her one-year-old son Chimwmwe got his shots without having to go to the hospital. Emily says the fact that a health worker is providing critical services right in the village makes a big difference for families. “It’s better when the health workers come to us. It saves us transport costs to get to the hospital,” says.