By Andrew Bishop Mkandawire

Use of digital health platforms to support youth, men and women with disabilities to access comprehensive sexual reproductive health education and information, key for informed referrals to demand integrated services, has proven to get to another height with the innovation of video and audio cards packed with family planning interactive and educative messages.

The video and audio cards that are handy and easy to use are targeting frontline workers who already teach and refer community members to the nearest service delivery points. “Many people including the youth like to watch and listen to messages that are interesting and educative and my job as a Community Based Distribution Agent (CBDA) has been simplified because I will be able not only to attract the youth, men and women, but also reach those with visual and hearing impairment,” said Memory Mkaka, who report to Chiwamba health Center in Lilongwe.

Mkaka and Sheli Baneti browsing through FP video messages from a video card during Malikha dialogue session.

The Deputy Coordinator for Youth Friendly Health Services for Lilongwe district hospital office Joseph Chigoli observed that “most youth including youth with disabilities lack access to youth friendly health services hence the digital cards are a good initiative as they are interactive to the youth and adults as well thereby breaking information flow barriers.”

“It is scary that to learn that 94 girls with ages 10-14 fell pregnant and 8674 girls with ages 15-19 fell pregnant of which most of them were unplanned pregnancies that leads to induced and unsafe abortions, school dropout, and poverty and parents are forced to take care of such children. These digital cards will help to teach and inform the youth of benefits of delaying their first pregnant so that they get a chance to realize their dreams,” said Esnai Zimba, Youth Friendly Health Services coordinator for Kasungu district hospital.

Zimba orienting youth how to use video and audio card during Chaima dialogue session.

“This is my first time to attend such an interesting dialogue meeting about family planning and I have gathered quality information that I will share with my friends. I have liked the family planning method of loop,” said Shila Baneti from Nchezi in Lilongwe who represented youth with albinism. And Tadala Samuel from Area 23 in Lilongwe represented youth with mobility challenges and explained that “Being the first time to talk about reproductive health in front of youth, chiefs, parents and health workers, I have observed that youth with disabilities do not have access to family planning information and do not know where to get the actual services. This audio cards will help my friends learn more about reproductive health and family planning services.”

Malawi Council for the Handicap (MAHOHA) community rehabilitation worker in Lilongwe, Rhodrick Sayenda explained that “people with disabilities have also capacity to learn and teach others about health issues.” Sayenda added that “The gadgets are crucial as many youth with disabilities in our community rehabilitation centers will access accurate and educative family planning information necessary to support the agenda of social inclusion and promotion of good health among the youth.” Newton Mbunge, MACOHA community rehabilitation volunteer in Kasungu explained that “the video and audio cards will help parents and youth open up about family planning since parents will also learn about modern family planning services available for their communities through amusement.”

Mbunge (sitting left) posing with Mtunthama participants after the FP dialogue meeting.

In Kasungu, Santhe, Kasungu District Hospital, Mtunthama and Chaima clusters and in Lilongwe, Deyoung, Area 25 and Kawale clusters benefitted from FPAM video and audio cards.

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, and have been sourced to Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) through WISH2ACTION project that seek to promote social inclusion in the promotion of community access to sexual reproductive health services to communities living in hard-to-reach areas.