By Andrew Bishop Mkandawire

The silence that clouded parents from opening with their youth on matters of sexual reproductive health in Lilongwe and Kasungu district supporting implementation Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) WISH2ACTION project continues to break with the coming of video and audio cards that are parked with family planning interactive and educative messages. Chiefs, health workers and parents have all agreed that the devices are friendly to both parents and youth as they carry health information necessary for all of them.

Senior Chief Kapelura in Kasungu said “Before WISH2ACTION project, we lost many girls and women from unsafe abortion complications due to unplanned pregnancies and those cases have completely dropped because parents are no longer resistant to permitting their wards access health services like family planning at mobile clinics. These video cards will even push us to reach more youth with contraception information and eventually managing successful referrals.” SGHV M’biya from Kasungu learnt that her area is already geared to serving youth, men and women including people with disabilities from accessing family planning services because she knows that responsible community members start with good health. “The digital players will just cement what we already do,” sha added. Block leader for Nsungwi Area 25A in Lilongwe concurred with SGVH Kauma of Area 12 and Kawale in Lilongwe that sometimes parents require intellectual approach to reach out to youth and such devices can just boost that confidence.

SC Kapelura interpreting an FP message from a video card for youth volunteers and parent during Chamama family planning dialogue.

Kasungu and Lilongwe district hospital offices have showed that the cards will help dispel myths and misconceptions and back up the community health workers with accurate, referential and trusted information for communities. “Kasungu district is one of the districts that are infested with myths and misconceptions regarding family planning services. Let’s use the messages contained in the digital players to dispel those lies by allowing community members watch and listen to the well-crafted family planning messages,” Alufeyo Chirwa, Family Planning Coordinator for Kasungu district hospital. And Lilongwe Deputy Family Planning Coordinator Jean Kayamba encouraged parents and guardians to engage youth with family planning conversations because the rate of youth felling for unplanned pregnancies in Lilongwe is high.

Community Health Workers have also cerebrated the coming of digital cards because they are attractive and interactive. “These cards have upgraded our health education job description and we will be accepted in communities with a fresh touch,” said Crissy Kumvula, Senior Disease Control and Surveillance Assistant (SDCSA) at Area 25 Health Center in Lilongwe. In Kasungu, FPAM community health worker Innocent Folopezi asked chiefs reach more youth because most youth look up to chiefs for guidance and information.

FPAM Lilongwe district manager Chipiliro Chiponda handing over Video and Audio cards to Kumvula during Area 25 health center FP dialogue session

Parents who volunteers to engage youth with disabilities to access basic education, care and support attended Kawale family planning dioalogue meeting where they also received the digital players to support their job of education youth with disabilities to eguip them with health information. Ethel Kapakasa is a MACOHA volunteer and said “my job requires a lot of support because with my frisnds we teach and care for people with disabilties and today we have received video and audio cards that will support health education session for youth with disabilties.” Mpakasa added that “As the youth grow up, their sexual desires become evident and they need to learn how to protect themselves from unplanned pregancies and sexually transmitted infections.”

Kapakasa show cased how she will use digital cards in her routine health education session for yotu with disabilities in Area 23 in Lilongwe

FPAM Director of Programmes, Tazirwa Chipeta commented that FPAM is geared to come up with more innovative ways that can accelerate dissemination of correct and accurate sexual reproductive health education and information to people of reproductive age. “Girls and women are encouraged to use our Digital Health platforms including USSD, Mobile Media – Video and Audio Cards, chatbots Facebook and WhatsApp chatbots,” she added.

The video and audio cards are addressing benefits of delaying first pregnancy, birth spacing, male engagement, minimizing stigma and discrimination, and dispelling myths and misconceptions regarding community access to family planning, targeted WISH2ACTIOn project implementation areas of Kasungu and Lilongwe. The project aims at promoting leave no one behind when it comes to community access to sexual reproductive health services to communities living in hard-to-reach areas.