Helen Timofee, Malawi Water Project
A project that the Malawi Water Project undertook over this past year was the establishment of Community Health Clubs. These cost effective clubs can empower villagers to not only take charge of the health of their village but show people how they can help themselves by working together to solve a whole range of problems in their community. Community Health Clubs help villagers organize themselves to improve health standards for their families and their communities. This past year we assisted in setting up three Community Health Clubs each with 35 to 50 members. We were fortunate to have two Health Surveillance Assistants from the Government who assisted us with teaching the 24 weekly health information sessions that the Club members attended to learn about improving sanitation and hygiene.
At the end of the 24 sessions, a graduation celebration was held for members who attended all sessions. Club members loved attending the sessions where the teaching was made interesting by including songs, dances and skits to peak interest and engage those attending. Many of those attending were able to make significant changes in their households to improve sanitation and hygiene. Some put in sani-plats (toilets), some got household biosand water filters, some bought plastic tubs to wash their babies in rather than wash them in the river, some constructed latrines and handwashing stations as well as putting a barrier around the community well. Their education on diseases and how to prevent them resulted in significant changes in behavior.
The Club in Chikwawa, Southern Malawi graduated 35 members. Following graduation, members had planned to develop income generating activities such as a community garden to grow a variety of vegetables. Just when we thought everything was going great, considering that we survived covid, disaster struck. Tropical Storm Ana hit the communities in Chikwawa washing away entire communities with about 1 million people being affected. People lost their lives. The storm and flooding destroyed homes, bridges, roads, drowned livestock and submerged crops. Now, the focus is on getting latrines and houses rebuilt and crops replanted.
There were two Clubs established in Chioko, Northern Malawi with 50 members in each. Following graduation, the Club members decided to work together to establish a Poultry Farm as an income generating activity. The members started working on a business plan to present to us, however, once again the rains interfered and houses, latrines and crops have been damaged or destroyed so the focus is on rebuilding the communities once more.
Hopefully, the Clubs will be able to resume their activities once they have finished rebuilding and replanting. Follow-up surveys will need to be done but with the devastation it may be better to wait until they are back to normal activities. We had received requests from communities to help them set up new Clubs prior to the flooding and rains so hopefully we will be able to set up training for the Clubs once life is back to normal.