By Shorai Nyambalo, UNICEF Malawi
When she got the message through her pastor at church one Saturday morning, Elida Ntanga, 37, of Kunenekude village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kanduku, planned not to miss the Child Health Days campaign which Mwanza District was planning to conduct. This was to ensure that her 2-year-old baby, Brian, benefits from the services to be offered at Kunenekude Health Centre.
On November 27, after finishing her morning household chores, Elida carried her son on her back and started off to the health centre which is about 2 km from her house.
“I decided to come early in the morning so that I could get assisted first and continue with my daily chores at home. My son’s health is my priority,” she said with a smile while resting under a shade of a tree before starting off to her village.
“Before providing the services, the health personnel gave us a health talk which included the importance of making sure that our children receive Vitamin A supplement. He said this helps with good eyesight,” she said.
“For someone like me who cannot afford to provide for all the required vitamins for my son’s growth through the food that I give him, I need to make use of such campaigns to ensure he gets the much-needed vitamins and grow well.”
At Kunenekude, the campaign was conducted in 10 outreach clinics, targeting 2,973 under five children and 186 postpartum mothers.
The activities during the campaign included deworming which involves provision of Albendazole tablets that helps to rid children of intestinal worms since these worms contribute to malnutrition. The campaign also involved Vitamin A supplementation which is vital for a child’s health, growth, immunity against diseases and good eyesight.
During the campaign week, apart from receiving vitamin A and deworming tablets, there was also mass nutrition screening of all children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.
According to a Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) of the area, Parks Jingini, this has been a successful campaign as it was well planned from initial sensitization and spreading of messages to the actual execution of the campaign.
“We used several means of spreading the messages to ensure every caregiver understood the importance of the campaign and brought their children to the nearest site to receive the services,” he said. “Messages were sent out through traditional leaders, religious leaders, we had posters in all the strategic areas, including schools and market places, as well as individual HSAs taking the message door-to-door in their respective villages.”
“I can happily say that the activity was done as planned. We have achieved our objectives as a district. During the actual Child Health Days, supervision revealed that in almost all the 80 sites where the campaign was conducted in the district, we might reach our targets of above 90 percent,” said Kondwani Chavula, the Nutrition Coordinator for Mwanza District.
Child Health Days have been implemented in the country since the early 2000s with support from UNICEF and USAID with the aim of reducing child morbidity and mortality.