A few weeks ago, I had the honor of visiting a malaria program site in Dipalata, Northwest Zambia. I think that one of the keys to the success of the Lutheran Malaria Program in the Dipalata area is the huge amount of collaboration between the malaria program, the congregations, the community and the government in that area. Every key stakeholder is involved in the project.
For example, in Dipalata, the ELCA delegation was welcomed in the Lutheran church by church and community leaders—including bishops, pastors, a tribal headman and a ward councilor. Headman Kanema of Mununji village in Dipalata said “This program has been a success in this area. Before the program began, most of the people were not aware that malaria is a killer disease—especially for pregnant women. They weren’t aware that malaria can cause her to be unable to deliver a live baby. But now they are aware of the dangers that malaria poses to babies and pregnant women. They learned this during our awareness and sensitization activities.”
The local political leader, Venus Katolusu, welcomed us warmly to Dipalata. “As the ward councilor of Dipalata, I am very thankful for the development that is happening here in Mununji, and for the malaria program,” Councilor Katolusu said.
He also lifted up a great example of the collaborative relationship that is at the heart of malaria work in Northwest Zambia—the proposed construction of a health post in Dipalata. A new health post (a small brick building) would create a physical space to house programming that has already begun to make an impact in the Dipalata community. Through the Lutheran Malaria Program, regular open clinics have been held to provide the community with malaria education, rapid diagnostic testing, and malaria medication for those who test positive. A building could bring permanence to the intermittent program, and a safe storage space for diagnostic kits, medication and equipment.
The community of Dipalata, the Lutheran Malaria program and the Zambian government would each have a key role to play in the proposed project. Members of the Dipalata community would mold the bricks to shape the walls, and provide stone and sand for mortar. The Lutheran Malaria Program in Zambia would provide windows and doors. And the Zambian government would supply architectural and strategic plans, to ensure that the new health post would be built according to government standards.
The community of Dipalata is very excited about the proposed new health post. In fact, community members have already completed their tasks, molding bricks and gathering materials for mortar. Headman Kanema says, “We have molded our bricks, and our local contribution is ready. And we want to see that a health post is built here. That will help us deal with illnesses like malaria, and it will also enable our future leaders to have good health so that they are able to lead us.”
Councilor Katolusu lauded the community for their contribution, and for their strong grounding in malaria knowledge: “I would like to thank the community for Dipalata for their contribution [to the construction of the health post]. They have made this effort because they know that malaria is a killer disease. That’s why they have worked so hard to mold their bricks, and to collect the sand and the stones—because they know the effect that malaria can have on their health.”
On behalf of the citizens of Dipalata, he thanked the Lutheran Malaria Program in Zambia—and the donors to the ELCA Malaria Campaign who support its work. “As local people, we will not disappoint you, because the things that you are bringing are of great benefit to us. Now as local people we are working with all our strength, so that whatever is supplemented to us, we will take care of it. We will be accountable to those gifts, so they will be of great benefit to all of us.”