ONSE Health Activity Joins Government in Unveiling Health Ambassador in Malawi

Maziko Matemba, Community Health Ambassador of Malawi, is introduced by Hellen Dzoole Mwale, Technical Director for Demand Creation, ONSE Health Activity. Photo Credit: Rejoice Phiri/MSH

In Malawi, where 84% of people live in rural areas and 24% do not live close to a health facility, improving access to quality, community-based care is a key step on the journey toward universal health care coverage. At a special event held in Lilongwe on December 12, 2019, health rights activist Maziko Matemba was named the first Community Health Ambassador of Malawi. The newly appointed ambassador will serve a link between community and health system stakeholders to ensure better integration of health services and to advocate for community health needs. 

Matemba was chosen because of his advocacy and influence within communities. “I have been passionate about health issues from the time I was young,” he said. “I would go into communities and observe people’s lifestyles and discovered there is much that we need to do as a country to achieve health for all. That is when I became an advocate, and I have not stopped. As an ambassador, my platform is bigger. I intend to use that to ensure communities fully realize and demand their health rights.” Matemba’s appointment is vital in enhancing the voice of community members and strengthening existing platforms and initiatives to improve health services across the country.

Staff from USAID’s Organized Network of Services for Everyone’s (ONSE) Health Activity attended the event, accompanied by 20 members of the Chiwandira Champion Community. ONSE’s Champion Community approach leads a group of community members through a participatory process to define and address their own health and development needs. Through a demonstration, the Champion Community members explained the impact of their initiatives, such as promoting good hygiene practices and ensuring people’s access to balanced and nutritious meals, on improving the health of their friends and neighbors.

{Members of the Chiwandira Champion Community showcase some of their activities, including promoting backyard gardens to curb malnutrition among children. Photo credit: Rejoice Phiri/MSH}Members of the Chiwandira Champion Community showcase some of their activities, including promoting backyard gardens to curb malnutrition among children. Photo credit: Rejoice Phiri/MSH

Since the Chiwandira Champion Community formed in May 2018, it has built a village clinic for children under five years old, trained Champion Youth to encourage uptake of family planning methods to their peers, and developed a community social fund with planned income-generating activities. As the community looks ahead, the group will continue to advocate for healthy behaviors among their neighbors.

After the presentation, the Minister of Health and Population Honorable Jappie Mhango commented, “I am impressed with how, as a Champion Community, you have embraced your work. Seeing a fraction of your display—of what is really going on, on the ground—gives me confidence that Malawi is on the right track to achieving health for all.”

To date, ONSE has supported the establishment of 58 Champion Communities in 16 districts to work with health authorities and local leaders to decide which health priorities to address and how best to mobilize communities.