Banja la Mtsogolo (BLM) News on Zachimalawi
Banja la Mtsogolo is a Malawian non-governmental health care provider specialized in issues of Sexual and Reproductive Health, Family Planning, HIV and AIDS, HIV Testing and Counseling, and Sexually Transmitted Institutions. BLM is a member of the Marie Stopes International partnership, and thus shares a set of core values that shape the face of all its programmes and work.
New hope for Communities as BLM launches Social Franchise Project
A Banja la Mtsogolo (BLM) Social Franchise Project dubbed ‘Blue Star Healthcare Network’ is going to be the answer for couples who either had no access to modern health care services or used to travel long distances to get to any such facilities.
The local family planning leaders have combined forced with private clinics in communities far from BLM clinics to reach out to more community members. The private practitioners have been trained and will be offered subsidized medical supplies to extend BLM’s family planning services at reasonable prices.
The project started bearing fruit in June, 2008.
“This is a remarkable milestone; it is a step further in the fulfillment our vision of seeing a Malawi where sexual and reproductive health choices and well-being are attainable by all Malawians,” said Walker Jiyani, BLM Country Director.
The project, currently on a one-year pilot phase in the Southern Region, has recruited 60 franchisers and will expand to the rest of the regions (Central and Northern) after successful completion of the pilot phase.
Blue Star Project Manager, Tiwonge Mhango, expressed confidence in the franchisees.
“We are in no doubt that these franchisees will deliver. We have put strict measures in place to ensure that we take aboard only those private clinics that are very capable,” she said.
Apart from empowering couples to have manageable families, the project will also go a long way in towards checking the spread of HIV as the franchisees will be offering male circumcision and distributing condoms.
BLM has a network of 30 clinics countrywide providing a full range of modern family planning methods and HIV counseling and testing.
The Blue Star Healthcare Network comes as a sister project to Community Outreach Programme under which BLM takes family planning services to 250 rural and remote sites for free once a m month.
The project requires funding for year-two from BLM’s co-operating partners since the pilot initiative only has funding for one year.
BLM relocates Salima Clinic
In an effort to serve its Salima clients better, BLM moved its clinic from Kamuzu Road to Mtukulamwendo. The new clinic is at the heart of the district and conveniently situated to most residents.
Norway donates K52 million to BLM for drugs
In October, the Royal Norwegian Embassy donated K52 million to BLM for the purchase of drugs and other medical supplies. The donation came at a time BLM was facing an acute shortage of drugs.
Royal Norwegian Embassy Programme Advisor, Abel Kawonga, assured BLM Head of Marketing Chifundo Malunga of continued support, a statement that thrilled BLM Warehouse Officer Maria Chimutu.
BLM hosts European journalists
A team of European journalists visited Malawi in April 2008, on a study tour to explore Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) rights; the gap between demand for SRH and the actual services on the ground; and how much support the European Union would provide to Malawi to make SRH services available to all Malawians.
The team had meetings with BLM officials, Ministry of Health officials and other stakeholders providing SRH in the country.
BLM hosted the team.
Reproductive Health Attendants drilled in HTC
With the expansion of its HIV Testing and Counseling (HTC) programme, BLM conducted an HTC orientation workshop for 55 of its Sexual Reproductive Health Attendants (RHA) from the Central and Northern region.
RHAs conduct door-to-door family planning campaigns.
The training equipped the RHAs with skills to counsel and advocate for HTC on their door-to-door campaign.
BLM takes Behaviour Change Communication to staff
In an effort to maintain a healthy workforce, BLM took its Behaviour Change Sessions to its staff stressing the advantage of having HIV tests before one’s health deteriorates.
20 immigration officials trained as peer educators
BLM trained a total of 20 immigration officers in April this year as peer educators, to provide SRH, family planning and HIV and AIDS messages to their workmates.
BLM takes Condom Use Campaign to nightclubs
The freezing winds of Mzuzu pierced through the night as we arrived at Paris Night Club, but this was barely enough to stop the city’s bustling nightlife from picking momentum. What’s more? Popular Malawian music reverberated across pubs, as the drench of liquor and cigarette smoke drifted into the street and the sky above. We noted many people sauntering into nightclubs.
As we walked into Paris Club, mirrored walls caught our reflections and reminded us of how we were dressed and what had brought us to the Northern region city of Mzuzu; we were in Manyuchi (a BLM Male-Condom Brand- lubricated for extra pleasure!) T-shirts and caps, and we had come to preach safer sex.
(The late) Disk Jockey (DJ) Twaliki Wisiki- known to scores of his fans as ‘Ada Mhone’- joined us during the campaigns. The celebrity DJ attracted much attention as we stormed the popular nightclub, and from the patronage, one could tell the condom disco was well publicized.
Conducted in 13 districts across the country, the shows aimed at sensitizing male beer-hall patrons and Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) on the fact that SOBER SEX IS SAFER and harness awareness on the advantages of ‘PROPER AND CONSISTENT CONDOM USE’.
A lot of people don’t really think intoxicated sex is a problem. It is a problem. More people have had unprotected sex while intoxicated with persons whose sexual history they don’t know, a thing they could not do if sober. And it is also possible to have improper condom use while under the influence of alcohol.
“These campaigns have been directed at right places and they can help to significantly reduce the country’s HIV prevalence rate,” said one beer hall patron who opted to stay unnamed.
Apart from discos, the campaigns included talks, give-away T-shirts, Bush Hurts and Umbrellas, and also quiz questions on sex.
BLM Sales Co-coordinator, Mundi Macheso, had this to say: “BLM believes that sex is one of the crucial aspects of life. Failure to talk about it could alter lives for many people, hence the importance of sobering up before indulging in sex.
“That is where condoms come in. There are people who do not even remember whether they had sex while they were drunk. This is dangerous,” said Macheso.
The shows were scheduled to coincide with the harvest season, when more people have money from farm produce, which some spend on beer and commercial sex workers.
BLM up scales HTC programme, recruits 32 counsellors
In an effort to provide its clients with a more holistic approach to their reproductive health needs, and to serve the unmet demand for HIV testing and Counseling
(HTC), BLM has extended its HTC programme- integrating it into 16 more clinics.
This development means BLM will now be offering HTC services in all its 30 clinics national wide.
Through its Community Outreach Programme, BLM will now reach 281 remote communities with mobile HTC.
A total of 32 new counsellors have been trained and deployed into 16 clinics.
The extension follows the success the programme chalked in the initial 14 clinics. BLM’s integrated approach (SRH/HIV) has been crucial to this success as family planning programmes have provided excellent opportunities for counseling and identifying those infected and reducing HIV spread, especially from mothers to children.
The expansion will also go along way towards reaching young people who spend their spare time in BLM youth drop-in centres.
BLM will have a referral system in place for appropriate care, treatment and supprt for those diagnosed positive.
National AIDS Commission (NAC) is funding the project.
BLM stretches Community Outreach Programme
It is June 12, 2009. The sky is dusky and the clouds are ejecting cold drizzles on Chief Koloviko’s shirt. He stands on Koloviko School Ground surrounded by a multitude of his subjects who watch him welcome Banja la Mtsogolo Community Outreach Programme.
“I am extremely exhilarated that family planning has come to Koloviko village. The mere thought of traveling 20 kilometers to the nearest health centre discouraged and denied us family planning services.
“My subjects lacked information and services. Farming land was getting smaller, poverty was gaining more ground and maternal deaths had increased due to early and persistent child bearing. This programme would not have come at a better time,” he says, amid ululation from his subjects.
Far in the background are three tents where BLM will offer free family planning, treatment for general ailments and HIV Counselling and Testing after sensitizing the community.
This is one of the areas that will increase BLM’s Community Outreach Sites. Under this programme, BLM takes family planning to communities far removed from BLM Centres or government health facilities.
BLM Regional Manager for the South, Edison Daudi, assures the community of unrelenting support.
“We are making greater strides towards creating hope for a better tomorrow among many communities. Any day from now, our staff will bring these services to you,” said Daudi.
Two other BLM staff rise and give talks on Depo Provera, Tubal Litigation and HIV Counselling and Testing, and ask the communities to discuss the information with their spouses and return the following day to access the services.
The response is overwhelming: 52 get tested for HIV, 20 get Depo-Provera and 12 come for Tubal Litigation.
Over 20 villages stand to benefit from this site and more than 400 rural communities will profit from the overall programme expansion.
Prison human rights investigators applaud BLM
On spot investigations by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) into the rights of prisoners living with HIV and AIDS has described the phasing out of Banja la Mtsogolo (BLM) Health in Prisons Project in March 2008 as a big blow to the living conditions of prisoners.
“The winding up of the programme by an NGO called BLM, which was very instrumental in supplying medicine and soap to prisons in Malawi has also contributed to the further deteriorating health of prisoners.
“It would appear that government depended on the provision by BLM, such that the winding up of BLM’s programme has created a very critical shortage of medical supplies,” reads an interim report into the investigations.
The report also singles out BLM and National Association for People Living with HIV and AIDS in Malawi (Napham), Media AIDS and Health Watch, and Development Media Africa as some of the organisations that had done an outstanding job on HIV and AIDS education inn the prisons and carrying out of HIV and AIDS related activities.
The on-spot investigations, carried out between July and August 2007, were carried out in 19 of the country’s 26 prisons with funding from the National AIDS Commission (NAC).
The methodology included interviews, inspection of prisons’ premises and facilities on sanitation, and the living conditions of inmates.
According to MHRC, the enquiry was prompted by reports on the deteriorating conditions of prisoners living with HIV and AIDS. Among other things, the report bemoans poor nutrition, overcrowding, poor sanitation and other risk factors like sharing of razor blades, toothbrushes and bathing stones.
BLM, in liaison with the Malawi Prison Service, implemented the four-year programme with funding from the Department of International Development (DFID) through the Malawi Safety, Security and Access to Justice (MaSSAJ) programme.
The project was aimed at improving Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) and access to high quality Integrated Sexual Reproductive Healthcare services by inmates in 26 prisons and 2 juvenile reformatory centres of Mpemba in Blantyre and Chilwa in Zomba.
The project succeeded in improving the health status of inmates and juveniles, reformation of inmates and in eradicating scabies in the country’s prisons.
The MHRC interim report was published in February, 2008.
The BLM ‘Tilere’ MBC Radio Programme clocks 14
BLM Family Planning services have played a fundamental role in the social-economic development and the improvement of people’s living standards. Our services have helped in reducing the strain and anxiety caused by excessive population growth on food, education, employment as well as housing.
Introduced in 1994, our ‘Tilere’ (Let’s child-space) radio programme on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Radio One has been instrumental in such achievements. 14 years down the line, the 30-minute programme still holds its own and is inspiring more couples to adopt modern family planning methods.
BLM Update had a chat with the programme’s current presenter, Vyalema Mwalyambwire, to find out how she is faring on air. Read on:
Question: Would you please brief us on the background of the programme.
Answer: The first presenter of the programme was Mr. Joshua Kambwiri, in 1994, and later passed it over to the late Mr. Mr. Maxwell Mbendera. I, Vyalema Mwalyambwire, started hosting the programme in 2001, after the passing on of Mr. Mbendera. I have, therefore, presented the programme for 7 years. The programme comes every Tuesday from 5:30 pm.
Question: Would you please brief us about the design of the programme?
Answer: The programme features interviews with BLM service providers, service users with Family Planning success stories and interviews with people that have had problems for failing to adopt family planning. The programme also gives out accurate family planning information, clearing myths and misconceptions.
Question: With many radio stations now, do you think this programme still has a large audience?
Answer: I, for one, get much encouraging feedback about the programme through phone calls, mobile phone text messages and letters. When out in the field to collect material for the programme, or in deed for any other programme, people talk to me much about the programme. The programme is very enlightening and I think it keeps on enjoying popularity. The prizes (branded T-shirts, umbrellas, caps and bags) BLM gives out in the programme also attract more listeners.
Question: What do you find most exciting about the programme?
Answer: I have learnt so much about family planning, and I think I can make every good counsellor. Clearing misconceptions we come across when we travel has also been exciting; we really get a wide range of misconceptions, especially with some sectors of our society preaching against modern family planning methods. It also feels good to hear, when we travel, about multitudes of women that have taken bold decisions and go for various family planning methods because of the programme. You don’t under-estimate the power of radio in transforming society.
Question: What do you think should be done to make the programme more exciting?
Answer: We need to collect materials from every part of the country. This will attract audience from every corner of the country. We also need to give out more give-aways.
PARTING WORDS FROM www.zachimalawi.blogspot.com: VYALEMA MWALYAMBWIRE, REST IN PEACE. I INJOYED WORKING WITH YOU, IN MEDIA AIDS AND HEALTH WATCH (MAWA, WHERE YOU WERE THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND I, RICHARD CHIROMBO, THE PROGRAMMES OFFICER). OH, VYALEMA, YOU MEAN TO SAY OUR GREETING AND FAREWELL AT MIBAWA BUS STAGE, PROMISING TO KEEP IN TOUCH, WAS THE LAST TIME TO EVER MEET AGAIN? YOU WERE GREAT, VYALEMA; YOU WERE COUGAGIOUS, REALLY. FROM YOU, I LEARNT A LOT. ABOUT YOU I WILL NEVER FORGET. REST INPEACE, VYALEMA.
www.zachimalawi.blogspot.com weeps for you. The tears are still fresh. Hope to meet you again, in the next life. Somewhere beyond the blue-less sky. Really.