My name is Chimwemwe Soko, and I am the Executive Director of Find Your Feet Malawi. I have been with Find Your Feet since 2007, and I am motivated by a strong conviction that we can work together to make a difference.

In this newsletter, you will read how we are working in partnership with Health Poverty Action to support rural, hard to reach communities in Malawi to unlock their potential. By working closely with the local government and community facilitators, there is genuine participation and ownership of progress.

Read here about our latest work together on water and sanitation.

 

Chimwemwe Soko, Executive Director, Find Your Feet Malawi

Esther has been living in Emoneni village in Malawi since 1972, but it has taken until now for them to get access to clean water.

Water is essential to life and yet the World Health Organisation estimates that, globally, at least 2 billion people are still drinking from a water source contaminated with faeces.

In the Manyamula region of Malawi, Find Your Feet have worked with communities for years to support families to improve their farming techniques. Now Find Your Feet are building on this work using the health and sanitation knowledge of Health Poverty Action. Together we are working with rural communities to build toilets, educate on the spread of disease and drill wells to provide entire communities with clean, safe water.

We’re doing this because water is not just water; it impacts people’s lives in many different ways.

Water becomes a hygiene issue when drinking unclean water leads to illnesses such as dysentery, typhoid and diarrhoea – the cause of 1 in 5 deaths of children under five in Malawi. It becomes an education and gender issue when girls are too embarrassed to go to school during their periods because they don’t have appropriate toilets and hygiene facilities. And it becomes a nutrition issue when there isn’t enough water for crops and livestock – almost 80% of people in Malawi rely on farming to feed their families.

Just a few months ago, the remote village of Emoneni in Manyamula, only had one water source – a stagnant, natural well filled with a few centimetres of milky water. The water was unsafe to drink, but it was often the only choice that local people had.

Esther crouches at the edge of a murky pool of water. This used to be the village’s only water source, and was used as drinking water by the community.

Esther crouches at the edge of a murky pool of water. This used to be the village’s only water source, and was used as drinking water by the community.

Esther lives in Emoneni with her husband and children. She was thrilled when the village was identified as part of the Manyamula water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) project.

“Since I married into the village in 1972, the Village Headman has been trying to get help for water, but no one came. In the rainy season, the village can collect rainwater in buckets, but the rest of the year they use the water from the natural well, where the water is white and stagnant. As water is a problem in the area, it was decided that the water from the natural well would only be used for the households. The women had to walk further to the river (10km away) to collect water for their livestock, and there was never any for irrigating crops.”

In November 2017, Find Your Feet drilled a new well in the village, with an easy-to-maintain pump to bring fresh water up from the ground. Now the village has a clean source of water just a few metres away which is benefiting the 500 residents of Emoneni.

“Before we had diarrhoea and dysentery. From the new well the water seems safe, which will reduce diseases. Now we have the new well, we can use the old one for livestock and irrigation.”

“I am extremely happy as we have been provided with a deep well. On behalf of the entire community, we feel the same way. The problem of water has now been solved.”

In the nearby village of Mpangavisoti, the impact of clean water and sanitation is just as clear. Until recently the village had no toilets, and local people would use the nearby forest. As a result of inadequate education on the spread of disease, and a lack of hand washing facilities, people often found themselves unwell from preventable diseases, and were unable to tend to their crops and livestock.

The restored water pump in Mpangavisoti.

The restored water pump in Mpangavisoti.

In Mpangavisoti, we supported the community to repair a water pump which had fallen into disrepair. This pump now provides clean water for the whole village, immediately reducing cases of waterborne illnesses such as diarrhoea and dysentery.

We’re also working with local people to construct their own toilets which turn waste into compost. All the demonstration toilets also have hand-washing facilities outside to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
Despite these improvements, fresh water and toilets alone are not enough to ensure permanent, long-term change. Education on how disease is spread is also being rolled out across the community to emphasise the importance of good hygiene practices.

Ensuring the durability of the pumps is equally important to the self-sufficiency of these projects. Rhoda Nyirenda, a local mother, was selected by her community to be the chairperson of the Water Point Committee who are responsible for the repaired pump in Mpangavisoti.

Rhoda Nyirenda is chairperson of the Water Point Committee in Mpangavisoti.

Rhoda Nyirenda is chairperson of the Water Point Committee in Mpangavisoti.

Each household in the village pays 200 kwacha per month (about 20 pence) to contribute to the maintenance of the pump, meaning that everyone feels ownership over their water source.

“I’m very happy to have been chosen as the chairperson. Now I have more skills and knowledge and I am more respected in the community.”

Rhoda has also received training so that she can keep the pump in good condition, fix it when it breaks, and replace any missing parts as necessary using the maintenance fund.

Rhoda uses the newly restored pump in Mpangavisoti to collect water.

Together with Find Your Feet, Health Poverty Action will continue to tackle all of the factors that impact on health and wellbeing, including sanitation, nutrition, education and water.

The Global Movement for Health

Guatemala: meet Adela

67 year old Adela is a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) from Totonicapán, Guatemala. Health Poverty Action has been working closely with TBAs like Adela and staff at local health centres, to improve communication between the two groups.

Adela is a TBA in Guatemala.

Together, we have been fostering relationships to ensure that staff at health centres respect cultural practices and speak the local language in order to eliminate discrimination against indigenous women.

We’re also training TBAs so they can identify danger signs in pregnancy, and have the confidence to refer their patients to health centres before medical complications become serious.

“40 years ago it was hard because health professionals saw us as useless. Now there is change, but with lots of struggle.”

“I had a patient who lived a long way away. That day the health post was closed. I called the doctor working here. ‘Dr Julio what can I do? The baby is going to die. It is a serious situation for the mother too…’”

By using the training she had received, Adela was able to spot the danger signs in pregnancy and get in touch with the doctor who respected her knowledge and was immediately able to send for the ambulance.

“The doctor was very grateful that we saved their lives. He knows us and our attitude. Now the health centre staff see us. Before they wouldn’t pick up the phone…The programme has got us ahead. It encourages us to go to the health centres. We have confidence and trust that they will receive the patient kindly, with good attention.”

This project is funded by the European Union.

 

Drought and nutrition in Somaliland

Hindi lives around 60km south of the town of Berbera, in a rural area of Somaliland. She and her family rear goats and sheep, and live a nomadic lifestyle, moving to find the best pasture for their livestock.

The area is remote, and it is difficult for the family to find healthcare nearby. The ongoing drought has had a severe impact on the family.

“Half our livestock have been wiped out by the drought”

As a result, they have struggled to make a living. This has impacted on the health of Hindi’s 3 year old daughter, Roodo.

Hindi sits with her daughter, Roodo, who is being treated for severe malnutrition.

“At first my child got a cough and a cold so I began to get worried. Then she got a fever and started vomiting. The situation was getting worse. I feared that my child would die – it is very hard to lose a child, so I started to look for any solution I could.”

Hindi has lost two young children in the past and was terrified at seeing Roodo so ill. Fortunately, a community nutrition worker, supported by Health Poverty Action visited the village, and immediately referred Roodo to Berbera hospital. When she arrived she was brought to the stabilisation centre, which is supported by Health Poverty Action. There she was diagnosed with severe malnutrition with complications. Her serious condition meant she had to be fed through a nose tube.

After ten days of treatment and nutrition supplements, she began to make a recovery.

“If this facility didn’t exist, the situation would have just got worse. I am now very happy that my child is gaining health.”

Our nutrition project in Somaliland is funded by UNICEF and WFP.

Events

Curry for Change is back!

Do you fancy spicing up your supper? By bringing people together for the love of curry, you can help families grow more food so they don’t go hungry, earn an income so they can provide for their families, and access vital information on nutrition and health.

Ways to get involved:

• Host a curry night – Create a feast for your friends and ask everyone to donate the cost of a takeaway.
• Supper clubs – Our foody supporters are spicing things up with special events. Find them using #curryforchange or host your own.
• Visit a restaurant – You can contribute simply by treating yourself at one of our partner restaurants. Find participating restaurants at curryforchange.org.uk/restaurants.

Did you get your ticket to ride?

The sporting season is in full swing! You still have time to sign up for a new year challenge, and we will support you every step of the way. Why not join our British 10k team running through the heart of London on 15th July?

Or, if running’s not your thing, you could even bag one of our few remaining places for Ride London-Surrey 100 on 29th July. Just email l.brown@healthpovertyaction.org for an application form.

 

Take part in a 100 mile bike ride with us!

Take part in a 100 mile bike ride with us!

 

 

Actions

Building a 21st century approach to drugs

The ‘war on drugs’ was built on shaky foundations. Now countries around the world, including Canada, Uruguay, Portugal and many US states, are beginning to dismantle it piece by piece. Its collapse is good news for people and communities around the world, providing us with the opportunity to build a new approach to drugs that prioritises, promotes and protects human health and well-being. This shift, from a criminal justice approach to health-based policy making, is essential if we want to take drug policy into the 21st century and protect health and rights.

This Spring, Health Poverty Action launches two new publications. The first, published with a range of health and development organisations, looks at the role the UK can play in ending the ‘war on drugs’ and helping to build the foundation for a better drug policy globally. It argues that the UK needs to support other countries who want to move towards new models, both through political support and by using aid money to fund research into alternative models. We also need to get our own house in order take a health and rights approach to drugs in the UK.

Our second publication elaborates on how to do that. Regulating cannabis will improve public health. It will reduce the risks – as things stand cannabis is widely available for people to buy and, when they do, they have no idea what it contains or its strength. A regulated market will also generate at least £1 billion in tax revenue that can fund the NHS and other public services.

As the movement across the world shows, this is an idea whose time has come. Two-thirds of the UK public support a review of the UK’s approach to drug policy, and 53% support the decriminalisation or legal regulation of cannabis.

Join the movement! Read our publications at healthpovertyaction.org/rebuilddrugpolicy and join the conversation on Twitter using #RebuildDrugPolicy.

Global Marijuana March, Vancouver 2013. Photo: Cannabis Culture CC-BY-2.0