By Farai Shawn Matiashe
Julia Chimbundinga sits on top of a rock in Maanhu Village, Marange, about 100 km south of Mutare, Zimbabwe’s fourth largest city. She looks on with joy at sixteen-month-old baby girl, Chelsea Muuya, who is wrapped safely in her mother’s arms.
Julia is a village health worker (VHW) who has come to check on Chelsea who was discharged from Victoria Chitepo Hospital in Mutare in late December, after being treated for severe malnutrition.
When Julia visited the village last year she noticed that Chelsea was suffering from malnutrition. Her family did not want to go to the clinic as they are members of the Johanne Marange, an Apostolic Church sect which does not allow its members to seek medical treatment. Julia is also a member of this Church.
But Julia convinced the family to get help for Chelsea and referred them to a health outreach 4 kilometres from their home.
Changing the narrative
Julia has been a village health worker since 2016. She volunteered into the programme after realising that children from her Church were dying from malnutrition, a curable disease.
“Some diseases require medical treatment as well as our prayers. I volunteered to be a village health worker so that I can bring change to my community.”
Another issue that stopped people from Marange seeking medical treatment was the fact they had to walk up to 15 km to get to the nearest clinic.
VHWs like Julia are being trained by nurses from the local health facility on how to manage malnutrition with support from GOAL Zimbabwe through the Nutrition Emergency Response for Early detection and Treatment (NERET) programme funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid.
The programme, which is being implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, identifies and provides life-saving treatment for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) cases in children under five in six districts of Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces.
“GOAL Zimbabwe is giving us great support. We also had training workshops on how to identify and manage malnutrition in our communities. They bring nurses to the outreach point because some people prefer to go there rather than to the clinic,” said Julia.
She teaches families how to use a MUAC tape to measure their children’s nutrition levels.
For Julia it is all worth while when she sees the impact of her work and infants like Chelsea happy and thriving.