By Lulutani Tembo, UNICEF Malawi
On a drizzling morning in Phalombe district, Malawi, mothers and their children gather at a village clinic for growth monitoring appointments for the children. The clinic is located on a mountain and is surrounded by grassy plains and a forest. Tawina Mawindo is here with her 4-year-old son, Boniface Masiye.
“Boniface has never skipped a growth monitoring session since he was born. I take him there every month,” says Mawindo.
Mawindo has three children: 12-year-old Joseph, 6-year-old Emmanuel, and the last-born, Boniface. She knows the importance of taking the children to the sessions. Health workers check they are the right height and weight for their age. They also receive other treatments including Vitamin A and deworming tablets.
Challenges accessing services
Mawindo and her family live in Kamala village. Like most women in the area, she sells firewood at nearby Phalombe town, earning her 5000 Kwacha (less than US$7) a month. Her husband sells fish for a living.
If business doesn’t go well they don’t have enough money to buy for and essential items for the children. And they can’t afford transport to get to major health facilities so they end up walking through the mountains to get the care they need.
“When I go to Mpata village clinic the journey can be rough in the rainy season. Boniface gets tired during the walk and I have to carry him on my back. These challenges would sometimes make me think twice about going to the clinic.”
Mawindo says some time ago Emmanuel, her middle son, had experienced problems with his eyesight because he wasn’t getting enough Vitamin A.
“I noticed that he was having problems,” says Mawindo. “I took him to the village clinic and they told me to take him to Phalombe Health Centre because they did not have Vitamin A. I had to suffer a two-hour walk to Phalombe Health Centre get him the required assistance.”
But Mawindo is now pleased she no longer has to wait for the Child Health Days, that only take place twice a year, for the children to access Vitamin A supplement and deworming tablets. The treatments are now provided as part of the monthly monitoring.
Support from Global Affairs Canada and UNICEF
Since June 2018, Global Affairs Canada has been funding UNICEF to provide Vitamin A capsules and albendazole deworming tablets to health facilities in five districts in Malawi. More than 128,000 under the age of five have been able to access these services since the funding began to flow.
“The routine provision of these services is a big boost for many children and their caregivers. They now have a full range of services they can access every month,” says UNICEF Malawi chief of nutrition, Sangita Jacob.
Masuako Misi, who works at the Mpata Village Clinic as a volunteer health surveillance assistant is equally happy.
“Before the support from Canada, it was tough,” Misi explains. “There were times when the supplies of tablets would finish during Child Health Days. This meant some children would not be able to access their Vitamin A and deworming tablets and would have to wait for the next campaign.”
He says the children can now access the treatments throughout the year. Misi also explains that prior to the intervention from Global Affairs Canada, their clinic had many children suffering from intestinal worms. The cases have decreased now.
Meanwhile, Mawindo is very grateful for the new services. “I am very thankful for the new services we are receiving for our children. I have hope that Boniface will grow to be a healthy boy.”