E4A-MamaYe Malawi owes much of its success to its trained activists in all the three regions of Mzimba, Rumphi and Nkhata Bay. A continuous engagement with the activists in its various ways has helped to make positive impact in the districts in improving maternal and newborn health. The activists, volunteers from different cross-sections of the society, dedicated their time and energy in informing their communities with various critical messages and awareness campaigns. At the same time they were involved in advocating for resources to allocate in the health facilities of the areas they come from.
The activists could not have done it all by themselves, especially when it comes to raising awareness and advocating on some important issues. Hence, the introduction of SMS in the campaign had helped a great deal in engaging the activists and keeps them updated with essential information.
The SMS toll free line is used to send messages to all the members in the data base. The service is provided by the mobile phone company Airtel. The activists are not being charged when they send responses, whereas only MamaYe is charged for using the service.
The clean birth campaign has been one of the activities for which the SMS toll free line was used. By using the evidence generated through HBA and QuIC, the community would be made aware of some of the negative consequences health facilities might face if not adhering to recommended standards. Many activists have used the information to advocate for blood donation at various health facilities and in their communities.
One of the benefits of using the SMS toll free line is that the activists have taken ownership of the project and activities as they are able to see the needs at the community level and find ways of addressing them. Special messages for specific days have played a great impact in alerting the communities on some of the risks they are exposed to. Of particular mention was during the World Pneumonia Day and World Malaria Day, both commemorating some of the biggest causes of maternal and newborn deaths in the country. The SMS were sent to inform the activists and the communities on taking extra precautions, in order to save the lives of both the mother and the baby. And so recipients sent a number of responses on what they do to raise awareness on the issues.
One of them, Micheal Nkhulapo from Rumphi, said,
We encourage pregnant women to observe a healthy diet. We also tell the women to go deliver at a health facility.
Christina Zimba from Nkhata Bay responds by saying that with her colleagues, she usually take part in activities which advocate for women to go for antenatal clinics to ensure the health of both the baby and the mother.
SMS have also been used to spread evidence and information based on QuIC. As a way of encouraging ownership of some of the challenges in the communities, activists have been asked what actions they take to respond to some of the issues raised from the findings. Oscar Chimango, chairperson of Mzenga Activists Group in Nkhata Bay, responds by narrating that the group together with the community were able to raise resources for Mzenga Health Centre amounting to K110,000 for the purchase of mops, candles, wheelbarrow and grass slashers. The activists were also engaged in advocating for blood donation by going around in school mobilizing students to donate blood and conducting health education.
As highlights by the response above, SMS’s have played and will continue to play a very critical role when it comes to activists’ engagement. Volunteers are being fed with important key messages that are tailor-made and which push them to take action. The constant engagement has also helped to keep track on their progress of work as during visits to some areas, people are able to acknowledge the work the activists are doing. Using such information some communities have been able to set up by-laws which discourage women delivering at home.
Through this cheap way of sending out messages to the masses, one can easily see the impact MamaYe has in reducing and improving maternal and newborn health care in the districts.
To read more on role of activists around Mhenga Health Centre, click here.