Uncovering health gaps through the lens

ONE of the community volunteers (far right) talks to show-goers at the exhibition in Chongwe recently. PICTURE: VIOLET MENGO

THE English say, ‘Seeing believes…a picture is worth a thousand words.’ The Africans, in the same vein, say, “Seeing is very different from being told.”

This is because one is likely to remember more what they see than what one hears.
Visuals have a way of grabbing the audience’s attention and prompting interaction, especially on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and so on… Images can tell a full story.
There is real value in using images to promote scientific content. Images do not only grab attention but they also help people learn, explain tough concepts, and they inspire too.
In an effort to send messages on health and community engagement, the Global Health Corps (GHC) Zambia fellows, in collaboration with Community Health Workers (CHW) of Chongwe, recently went to communities to document the health challenges through images faced by the various communities in the district.
With the help of GHC, community volunteers have been trained to take pictures, and recently a photo exhibition was held in Lusaka to tell their stories through the camera lens.
The exhibition held last month, entitled Masompenya, meaning ‘seeing it with my naked eyes’ or ‘seeing it live’, showed photos of ailing adults and children, and also community engagement in health projects, sanitation and the work of community volunteers.
GHC is a US-based leadership development organisation for young professionals working in the health sector.
“We are a group of 10 American and 10 Zambian fellows living in Zambia. We are working for different organisations such as Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ), Population Council, and the Ministry of Health,” GHC health information officer Phillip Siwila said.
One of the key roles of the fellows during their fellowship year is to engage the community in an activity that promotes social justice and health equity.
About the requirement, fellows, in collaboration with the MoH, highlighted the work of the community health workers through photography.
The photo exhibition showcased the work of community workers in healthcare delivery by highlighting the realities of their work through photos and short stories.
The exhibition was the first of its kind.
MoH National Community Health Assistant coordinator Elias Siamatanga said the work of community-based volunteers in delivering health care to the community, especially in rural communities, is critical to filling the gaps in healthcare service delivery.
MoH has recognised the importance of this cadre and, as such, is in the process of developing the national community health strategy which is going to guide activities in the provision of community health services.
“The purpose of the photo exhibition is to provoke discussions on the role of the community health-based volunteers; the challenges they face in providing equitable access to healthcare services and the potential solution to these challenges,” Mr Siamatanga said.
“I encourage all of us to look closely at these photos and the stories they tell, with open eyes and minds so as to appreciate the tireless work these CBVs accomplish, and to think about the support we can provide them.”
Many of the pictures inspired viewers to collaborate more with community workers to improve the quality of health care to the community.
Mr Siamatanga said for a long time, community health workers have provided support in communities through different programmes and ways such as clinical care and sanitation.
The volunteers are motivated by the passion they have for the patients they meet in the course of their work and are determined to promote healthy lifestyles in the target communities.
The pictures exhibited showed the many problems in the communities.
“These pictures are telling a bigger story than what I can tell you, where you see an old man with wounds and community health worker trying to assist…,” Mr Siamatanga said.
He said the photo exhibition was also aimed at getting the attention of possible benefactors who could possibly collaborate with community health workers who are volunteers.
In addition, according to Dismass Mwalukwanda, a community health worker in Chainda township, the volunteers have been conducting health sensitisation programmes on malaria, tuberculosis, HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
They also distribute medicines to patients, and where need be, they refer patients to health centres.
“We further ensure our communities are healthy by helping in maternal and child health activities such as encouraging and teaching on the importance of antenatal care, supervised deliveries, post-natal care, under-five clinic and family planning,” Mr Mwalukwanda said.
The work of community health workers is not without challenges and Mr Mwalukwanda cites lack of transport and community health kits as some of them.
“Some of our patients and pregnant mothers cover a long distance to access health services, so a number prefer staying home (home delivery),” he said.
Mr Mwalukwanda appealed to well-wishers to help incentivise community volunteers through the provision of motorised ambulances and necessary health kits for all volunteers.
“We pledge to continue helping our communities because it’s a calling from God,” he said.
He said the community health volunteers will continue collaborating with the MoH in their quest to improve healthcare services in Chongwe.

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