Chinguluwe Health Center located in the Traditional Area (TA) Chilowoko in Ntchisi caters for a total population of 23,542 people. However, since 2012, the health facility has been operating with only one nurse in spite having three very descent houses for staff. This was over stretching the nurse in the provision of health care as narrated by Cephas Chisankhwi, Chinguluwe STAR Circle Chairperson: “Our community members were denied adequate health care as patients could be sent back home without receiving treatment on the basis that the lone health worker was too tired to continue serving the people in a particular day; many of our women were delivering at the traditional birth attendants resulting in increased cases of infant and maternal mortality.” This was a violation of the community members right to health as enshrined in Chapter III of Fundamental Principles of the Malawi Constitution and Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) with funding from Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) trained Chinguluwe STAR Circle in March, 2015. “Our STAR Circle identified the shortage of skilled personnel at Chinguluwe Health Centre as an issue that was negatively affecting the welfare of people not only in the villages within our traditional authority but also other surrounding communities”, stated Cephas Chisankhwi. This was during a Church and Community Leaders meeting in the area which was initiated by the STAR Circle. With the blessing of the Church and Community Leader (as moral duty bearers), the STAR Circle members sent a delegation of three representatives to the District Health Office (DHO) as a duty bearer to present their case on the need for additional staff at the Chinguluwe Health Center. This has resulted in two Nurse Midwife Technicians been deployed the health centre a month after the petition was presented to the DHO.
The communities surrounding the Chinguluwe Health Center are all smiles; now that their health facility has been stocked with adequate staff. Previously, only 16-20 women used to give birth at the health facility monthly but now the number has risen to an average of 40 deliveries resulting in improved maternal and child health. Additionally, the newly deployed staff is also being utilized as facilitators during EAM trainings under the Nzatonse Project since September 2015.
The Story of Chinguluwe STAR Circle is in-line with EAM’s goal of establishing self-resilient and empowered communities proficiently controlling their own development process and achieving sustainable holistic change. Additionally, it directly contributes toward achieving one of the programmatic priorities of improving access to quality health care in communities in Malawi as prescribed in the Norwegian Church Aid’s (NCA) Malawi Strategic Plan 2012-2015.
Empowered church and community structures through their local leadership are paramount in bringing positive change in any given community. Additionally, working with church volunteers enhances project sustainability as the motivation for service provision is neither monetary nor material but the desire to serve others as an expression of God’s love. Involvement of Church and community volunteers therefore, develops the community capacity to deal with various health related issues at community level.