Community Change Agents Save Lives in Tanzanian Villages

Three young children – ages 2, 5 and 8 – from one family in Chegena village, Tanzania, fall ill at the same time. In this village, it is not uncommon to blame witchcraft for such a sad occurrence.

The parents of these sick children believed their children had been bewitched because they built a new house recently. Someone was jealous of their success, perhaps. For this reason, they took their children to a village witch doctor. After three days of “treatment”, the children were still ill.

Concerned community members informed Lusian Komba about the sick children. Lusian Komba is a Community Change Agent (CCA) working in the village of Chegena. As a CCA, Lusian Komba was trained by the Communication and Malaria Initiative in Tanzania (COMMIT), a USAID and PMI-funded project that is being implemented by CCP, in partnership with Jhpiego, Population Services International (PSI), PMI and the Tanzania Ministry of Health and National Malaria Control Program (NMCP). CCAs facilitate educational events in their communities about proper methods for preventing and treating malaria.

As soon as Lusian heard about the situation in Chegena village, she rushed to the witchdoctor’s compound where she found that the children were seriously sick with the telltale signs of malaria.

“I had to tell them [the parents] that their children had signs of malaria and they had not been bewitched and that they would save their lives if they took them to the village dispensary,” recalled Lusian.

Lusian referred the family to a village dispensary. The children received good care and recovered quickly, and the family was grateful and promised to visit the village dispensary whenever they get sick.

Lusian Komba explains that this type of situation is typical for a CCA in her community. “One year ago, most of the villagers were referring the sick to the witch doctors,” she notes. But since she started talking to them about the signs of malaria and the importance of early treatment, most of the community members have stopped going to witch doctors. They now seek treatment at the village dispensary and they tell their friends and neighbors to do the same.

And when they need Lusian’s help, they look for her.

Learn more about COMMIT.

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