Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ADRA assistance reaches HIV/AIDS-affected communities

In Malawi, where HIV/AIDS prevalence ranks eighth in the world, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is assisting 4,200 low-income families through a three-year community-based health and food security project in the southern districts of Mwanza and Mulanje.

Targeting communities in rural areas, ADRA is helping HIV/AIDS-affected families access high quality and nutritious foods through initiatives that teach beneficiaries better ways to produce food using more effective farming methods. As part of this project, beneficiaries are also learning to grow drought resistant crops, and protect stored food from pests, spoilage, and other hazards. Additionally, ADRA is promoting the planting of community gardens as a tool to increase food accessibility among villagers.

"One of the most important parts of achieving long-term success in the project is to strengthen the capacities of the communities, as well as the capacities of individual people," said Michael Usi, director for programs at ADRA Malawi.

Included in the nutrition component of this project, participants attend classes to learn to improve the overall health of their families through appropriate food selection, nutritional diversification, and meal preparation. This approach has had a lasting effect on beneficiaries, as they are better able to retain crucial food nutrients, ultimately improving their health and immunity to disease.

"This section of the project has been very beneficial," said Usi. "Before, the elders of the community would say, 'all that matters is that your stomach is full.'"

As part of this three-year project, supported by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and ADRA Denmark, ADRA is also training community volunteer health workers to provide health, child-care, and nutrition counseling, and teach improved personal hygiene and sanitation. In addition, participants learn about sanitation and essential life skills to promote disease prevention.

In Nseula Village, located in Neno District, one of the most remote areas of Malawi, ADRA built a gravity-fed water supply system that is providing drinking water to approximately 1,085 people for the first time. This addition has made a significant difference in this village. ADRA is also constructing 130 wells, boreholes, and protected springs to improve water access in other communities.

"The value of access to safe water is immeasurable," said Usi. "Instead of spending time walking to get water, a chore which, for some, takes up to an hour, women are able to spend more time taking care of their children. In addition, if the water that you are bringing home is not clean, there is a much higher risk of spreading diseases. That is why ADRA makes it a priority to provide clean water in the communities in which we work."

ADRA is also providing livelihood training to child-headed households, enabling them to make a living and provide for their families. This initiative has been particularly important in Malawi where the AIDS pandemic has left thousands of orphans, resulting in an increasing number of children having to become the primary breadwinners. To date, more than 120 children and young adults between the ages of 12 to 24 have received vocational and life skills training, such as tailoring, tinsmithing, baking, brick laying, welding and carpentry. ADRA has also partnered with Malawi's Department of Social Welfare to encourage younger children to return to school, a plan that will allow them to only work for part of the day, and still support their families.

To ensure project sustainability, ADRA is increasing the capacity of the targeted communities through initiatives that establish village support groups, which can manage the resources once the project ends. ADRA is also training community leaders on issues such as organization, management, leadership, and planning, and educating communities on the importance of the rights of women, children, and other vulnerable groups.

"Beneficiaries have told us that they appreciate the impact of the project, due to the knowledge and skills that they have acquired," said Usi. "The project has definitely been a success. No doubt about it."

The three-year project is scheduled to close at the end of October. However, a second phase will begin in February of 2009.

ADRA has been active in Malawi since 1982, working primarily in the areas of disaster relief, water and sanitation, HIV and AIDS, family planning, agriculture, primary health, basic education, and empowerment of vulnerable groups, such as women and children.

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race or ethnicity.

Additional information about ADRA can be found at 

Author: Nadia McGill (ADRA International)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Food Security series - IHFS

The main objective of this ADRAProject,  is to address food and nutrition insecurity among vulnerable households affected by HIV/AIDS. This is achieved through promotion of improved crop varieties, particularly drought resistant crops and modern farming methods such as soil and water conservation, manure making and improved crop storage. In addition, households are trained in improved food preparation skills that are efficient and help retain the nutritional value of the various promoted foods. In addition the project promotes hygiene and sanitation among the targted households. The targeted households are organized into Village Support Groups (VSGs) which recieve trainings and are supported to establish individual as well as communal gardens.  The VSGs are linked to other community structures, particularly Village Development Committees (VDCs) which coordinate all development activities under the government decentralization structures.

The Integrated Health and Food Security for Vulnerable Groups Due to AIDS Project (IHFS), is supported by DANIDA/ADRA Denmark, works in Mulanje and Neno Districts.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Accurate information reduces HIV incidences

The battle against HIV/AIDS and its devastating impact is an increasing concern to ADRA Malawi. As a social issue HIV/AIDS has in so many ways retarded development at individual, family, community as well as national level. While on the other hand, young people are among the most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 
Good communication and accurate information on HIV/AIDS can allow young people and the nation as a whole to revise the myths, cultural practices and stigmas and discrimination that accelerate transmission in order to prevent the virus from further spread.
One of the ideal tools that ADRA Malawi has used is the media oriented programs.
These programs, which include radio talk shows, Lets Talk, and drama series, Tikuferanji (radio and television) and community video shows, have enhanced the dissemination of accurate and relevant information on HIV/AIDS. 
The programs promote access to comprehensive and reliable information in quest of behavioral changes with the special emphasis on life changing strategies.
These media program, Lets Talk and Tikuferanji? (which literally means why are we dying?) have offered a way for Malawians to find facts resulting in  eradication the myths and cultural practices that have far been contributing to the spread of the virus and reducing stigma and discrimination at national level.
Since these programs are aired to the whole nation, ADRA has to be sure that the messages are accurate and depict issues related to Malawi so that they change the nation for the better.
Having the programs also means that access to information on issues dwelling on HIV/AIDS, human rights, food security and other relevant issues is possible and easy.
For many years the radio and print media have been to major sources of information. However, since ADRA started the drama series on Television, it has proven that TV is also very powerful because of its visual aspect.
Tikuferanji TV program is one of the most watched programs on Television Malawi, so much that when it is not beamed there is always public outcry for the program.
Without a doubt the media oriented programs have changed the lives of so many people and have delivered accurate and important information to the nation.
Evidence exists that Communities have changed the way they view issues because of the information that they heard from ADRA Malawi media programs.

Authors: Ruth Simika/ Chikondi Madikiza-Madumuse