The CHC Methodology as a mobilisation strategy, was first conceived by Dr. J. Waterkeyn, the Co founder, with her husband Anthony Waterkeyn, of Zimbabwe AHEAD Organisation.
Having developed the first Tool Kit with Min. of Health, (funded by WHO) which was used by Unicef for implementing PHAST in Zimbabwe, in 1994, Dr. Waterkeyn tried the concept of combining PHAST in Community Health Clubs in a field trial funded for six months by Unicef in Rwombwe, Makoni District.
With evidence of overwhelming popularity with the community who flocked to the first CHCs, funds were sought to scale up to two other wards in Makoni, and this once again was a great success. In 1999, Juliet and Anthony Waterkeyn found funds to start a small NGO in order to replicate the approach in 23 wards of Makoni, with 265 CHCs, supported by Danida and Oak Foundation. In addition DFID supported a large CHC roll-out in 3 wards of Tsholtosho (32 CHCs) and 16 wards of Gutu districts (85 CHCs) from 1999-2002.
When the Zimbabwe economy collapsed in 2001, all funding for NGOs dried up overnight, and the founders had to leave the country for econommic reasons. Zim AHEAD had to downsize for a few years, with the Chairman, Mr George Nhuhama, supervising the programme pro bono. The head office moved to Makoni District where the Community Health Clubs continued their activities under the dedicated care of Josephine Mutandiro and Andrew Muringaniza and their team of grass root volunteers, so proving the resilience of the model in a time of extreme recession. At the height of the recession, they constructed a Training Centre and ran a Nutrition programme with over 10,000 bee keepers and herb growers (supported by LEAD and FAO)
In 2006 emergency funds began to flow again in Zimbabwe and Zim AHEAD was asked to partner with Mercy Corps in Chipinge and Buhera District to roll out CHCs which then became the first Food Agriculture and Nutrition (FAN) Clubs, funded by Big Lotterry Fund and EC.
By 2008 OXFAM provided funds for the ground-breaking first urban project in Sakubva, Mutare, which assisted in mitigating against cholera in the 2008/9 epidemic. OXFAM became a committed partner, with a large CHC project in Chipinge District and Chiredzi, which was completed in August 2010,
In 2012 Zimbabwe AHEAD started 480 CHCs in Mberengwa and Gutu districts in partnership with ACF which were sucessful and set a new bench mark for commuity resposne with every household in all areas participating, and zero open defecation achieved in 429 villages.
By 2012, Community Health Clubs had been established in 30 out of 57 Districts in Zimbabwe due to the Dfid Funded Protracted Relief Programme which enabled the replication of CHC to other 20 international and local NGOs by systematic training by Zim AHEAD.
In 2013 there was a major programme in five districts in Manicaland and Masvingo, funded directly by USAID/OFDA produced another 450 CHCs and training was completed by the end of 2013, despite significent delays due to electioneering which closed down the activities of many NGOs.
In 2014, Zim AHEAD started two small urban CHC projects in the towns of Bindura (GAA) and Chipinge (ACF), funded by the Unicef Urban WASH fund, and both achieved the same high response with Councils delighted at the increased response from citizens in their clean up campaigns.
ACF then partnered with Zim AHEAD in Masvingo, and numerous training were done for other organisations wanting to start CHCs through the Protracted Relief Programme 11, again funded by DFID. The Ministry of Health was by now in firm support of the CHC Model and began to institutionalise the approach in Policy, which is now in both the National Water Policyand the Sanitation Policy.
Also in 2014, DAPP partnered with Zim AHEAD on a project in two new districts…
In summary, Zimbabwe AHEAD Oranisation (later becoming Africa AHEAD) by 2015, had started over 2,500 CHCs, reaching 250,000 CHC members and over 1.7 million direct beneficiaries since 2002.
In 2014 Africa AHEAD was registered in Zimbabwe as a Private Voluntary Organisation, whilst Zimbabwe AHEAD continued operating as a local organisation.
In 2019 the UK Board decided to close down Africa AHEAD as a UK Charity and to move the main office to Harare, so as to be better placed to source regional funding.
When Anthony Waterkeyn retired as CEO in December 2019, Regis Matimati was appointed Executive Director, and took over the leadership of Africa AHEAD based in Zimbabwe. Regis suceeded in raising almost one million US$ for 6 emergency projects, mainly in Chipinge to assist those made homeless by Cycone Idai, with 75 homes being constructed.
In addition over 500,000 people were assisted in one year, largely due to a vast handwashing campaigns at all the bus termini in Harare where handwashing facilities was provided for all those leaving the capital, with the effect of curtailing the spread of cholera.
By the end of the year 2019, Zimbabwe had reached over 1 million people in the past five years: the only country to have met the 5×5 challenge set in 2013.
Africa AHEAD – Zimbabwe continues to be the main driver of the CHC Model in Zimbabwe, providing training and training materials to any interested party as well as implementing directly.