LOVERING SICHIZYA, Senanga
THE just-ended two-day health Indaba for Barotse chiefs has put traditional leaders in the limelight as strategic partners towards the attainment of Ministry of Health goals outlined in the Zambia National Health Strategic Plan (2017-2021).
The meeting brought on the pedestal issues of child marriage, negative traditional practices, HIV/AIDS among others.
The indaba was held at Senanga Nursing School under the theme “Chiefs providing leadership for health and wellness, leaving no one behind”.
This is in line with the national goal which envisions the country “to have empowered communities taking responsibility for improving their own health status through community health interventions”.
The meeting was characterised by a traditional practice of the Lozi kneeling down as Chief Anang’anga Imwiko of Lukulu, one of the notable participants, walked in and out of the meeting place.
Three indunas from the Ngambela’s Kuta in Limulunga Royal Village led by Induna Kalonga and a delegation of about four Silalo indunas from each of the 16 districts in Western Province were also among the distinguished delegates.
The indaba was also attended by some members of the clergy led by Pastors Fellowship chairperson, Bishop Raphael Silwamba and other representatives of civil society and non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) who were among the key participants.
Western Province Minister Richard Kapita who was the guest of honour at the event stated that Government recognised the important role that traditional leaders play in national development, hence the decision to strategically involve them in the fight against major diseases such as HIV/ AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) which have continued to be a major cause of mortality and morbidity in the region.
“These diseases have continued to ravage our communities here in Western Province. It is for this reason that I urge you, your royal highness and our Indunas present to join hands with Government to reduce and eliminate some of these ailments in the province”, Mr Kapita.
On malaria, Mr Kapita stated that Government was saddened by the rampant misuse of mosquito nets for fishing by the local people and challenged the Barotse chiefs to take an active role in combating the practices through information dissemination.
“One of the challenges we are facing your Royal Highness is the rampant misuse of mosquito nets. And by misuse, I mean, the tendency by fishing communities to use the nets for catching fish instead of sleeping under them to prevent malaria,” he added.
Barotse Chiefs’ resolutions
The meeting ended with a total of 17 resolutions which will guide the Baroste chiefs in supporting to Government as it endeavours to provide “equal access to the cost-effective quality health care systems as close to the family as possible’ as well as eliminate malaria by 2020 among other national goals.
Other resolutions included the need to support the Ministry of Health and all other Government departments and NGOs in their efforts to promote health and the wellbeing of the people in the province.
On pilferage of drugs and medical supplies in various health institutions, traditional leaders unanimously agreed to assist the Ministry of Health in combating the practice.
And as individuals, they pledged to take keen interest in making sure that TB and HIV/AIDS patients take their medications at all times, as one of the practical ways of minimising new infections.
In the same vein, the chiefs, vowed to discard negative traditional practices and promote campaigns on male medical circumcisions, behavioural change, condom use and HIV prevention measures. This is against the backdrop of the escalating HIV/AIDS prevalence which currently stands at 16.1 percent in the province.
The Western Province chiefs also pledged to support prohibition and control measures of alcohol abuse which has become rampant in the province especially the use of methylated spirit and adhesive glue commonly referred to as ‘solution ‘as alcohol, by teenagers receptive villages and chiefdoms.
In order to reduce maternal deaths that are caused by non-attendance of ante natal clinics, the chiefs said they will support the transportation of pregnant mothers in labour while making sure that institutional deliveries are promoted as opposed to home deliveries.
The chiefs were also categorical on health workers who exhibit a laissez-faire attitude towards work and promised to keep a close watch on them and ensure that they work according to their job descriptions in order to deliver quality health services to the people of Western Province.
Good sanitation and provision of safe drinking water to the people across the country, has for long been a priority for the Government and as such, the Barotse Chiefs, pledged to promote good hygiene practices, constructions of pit latrines and provision of safe drinking in their chiefdoms.
Child marriage was at the centre of deliberations at the indaba in Western Province. The chiefs pledged to stop the practice in their communities and vowed to ensure that schoolchildren attended school in line with the country’s social transformation agenda.
They also vowed to promote and modify all retrogressive traditional practices either by the traditional healers or religious leaders that deter people from taking anti-retroviral drugs.
The onus is therefore on Barotse chiefs to ensure that the health indaba does not just become a talk show but a reality.
LOVERING SICHIZYA, Senanga