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“Together with Life”: an innovative partnership with great impact on remote communities in Niassa

© UNICEF Mozambique/E.Machiana
Children and adolescents participate enthusiastically in assembling the audiovisual equipment so that their community can watch the educational films on the prevention of cholera, malaria and HIV.

NIASSA, Mozambique, 8 August 2011 - It was already mid-afternoon when the multimedia mobile unit arrived at Matuane primary school, in Cuamba district. The school was deserted, since classes had finished. But suddenly hundreds of children from all corners swarmed into the school yard, running noisily behind the multimedia vehicle. They knew that today they would have a very different evening.

Scarcely had the truck come to a halt, when a group of adolescents came forward, jumped onto the luggage rack of the vehicle, assembled the screen and placed on the ground the generator, the powerful amplifiers and the cables needed to connect them. Guided by the activist Jacinto Chicava – a field worker for the Niassa Cotton Company, part of the João Ferreira dos Santos Group – they zealously put together all the equipment. They were proud that they could participate, and lead this initiative!

Educating the community

While it was still light, the powerful sound apparatus was connected to transmit popular music throughout the community. The sound penetrated each of the homes, bringing joy, and urging all the families to finish rapidly whatever they were doing, and all come, without exception, into the school yard. Scarcely had night fallen, when a crowd gathered in front of the screen, and the session began. The activist Jacinto Chicuava, trained in community mobilisation by EcoSIDA, diligently projected video-clips of famous musicians and educational films on the prevention of malaria, HIV and AIDS, and good hygiene practices, in order to prevent cholera.

When the videos ended, Jacinto encouraged and moderated a heated debate between members of the community. The most outspoken, men, women and adolescents, did not hesitate to climb onto the vehicle’s luggage rack, which also served as a podium. With microphone in hand, so that everyone could hear, they shared their points of view about what they had just seen and gave their recommendations for a collective change in behaviour.  

Reaching the most vulnerable

20 year old Gracinda, the mother of little Nando, was also in the crowd. She could not contain her joy. She still remembered what she saw and learnt the last time the mobile unit passed through here.

“I really like the videos, because I saw people dancing, I saw musicians, I saw the sea for the first time, and I learnt a lot about how to prevent AIDS, malaria and cholera. I learnt things that will help me take better care of my son”, she said, securing him to her back.

Nando is just 2 years old and, like all children, he needs special care so that he can survive and grow up in good health. But like many young women of her age in remote areas, Gracinda has little access to information. In her community there is no electricity, and so there is no television or radio. Newspapers never reach there, and few people would be able to read them. The only school does not teach beyond fifth grade. It is through the mobile unit that Gracinda has gained access to pertinent information about life skills.

Involving the community leadership

The role of the community leaders has been fundamental for the success of this initiative. Days earlier, the elder Abuana Paulene, leader of the Matuane community, made a point of mobilising the entire population to attend and to take part in the debates. 

“We would like these images and films to be shown here on more occasions! They are having a positive impact because after seeing them, we retain the idea of what is good and what is bad for us. It helps us fight against disease and educate our young people”, declares Abuana hopefully.

Just as happens in the other communities where the mobile unit goes, the leader not only makes families aware that they should participate, but also plays an active role in the debates that follow the projection of the films, so that everybody understands and accepts the messages.

© UNICEF Mozambique/E.Machiana
20 year old Gracinda had never before seen images on a screen or on a television. The mobile unit has brought her an innovative way of learning how to prevent cholera, AIDS and malaria, and how better to care for her 2 year old son Nando.

Promoting public-private partnerships

The availability of this multimedia mobile unit in Cuamba district results from a public-private partnership launched in late 2009 by the João Ferreira dos Santos Group (which provides the vehicles and the activists and supports the unit’s operational costs), EcoSIDA (which supplied the audiovisual equipment and trained the activists), the National AIDS Council (which financed part of the audiovisual equipment), and UNICEF (which coordinated the partnership and has supplied the information, education and communication materials).

The purpose of this pilot project, called “Together with Life”, is to reach the remote rural population in Niassa Province with key messages in the areas of Health, Education and Child Protection.   

In 2010 alone, the multimedia mobile unit reached more than 5,800 people in various communities in Cuamba district, and stopped in about 30 markets. In addition to providing pertinent information, it has been used to support health interventions and responses to disasters.

“As part of the private sector, we are very pleased with the impact this initiative is having among the communities. The mobile unit has also supported the local authorities in campaigns to vaccinate children, in distributing mosquito nets and, in cases of cholera outbreaks, in distributing water purifiers”, says a proud Manuel Delgado, General Manager of the Niassa Cotton Company, which is a member of the João Ferreira dos Santos Group.

A low cost innovative initiative with great impact

The multimedia mobile unit consists of a team of well-trained community mobilisers, and a simple vehicle with sound amplification equipment, a generator, a projector, a CD and DVD reader, a small camera and a giant screen. The projection of videos and educational films serves as an entry point for promoting debates in remote communities – who normally have no access to information through audio-visual means – so that they may identify the solutions to their problems and adopt healthy behaviour.

This partnership is an important example of how the private sector, in collaboration with the public sector, can promote innovative initiatives that seek the well-being of communities, and particularly of children.

“Companies have financial resources, they have operational resources, they have access to their clients, they have access to their workers, their families and their communities. All these resources can be maximised in collaboration with the public sector to promote the well-being of children”, states UNICE representative Jesper Morch.

The positive results from this initiative may determine the expansion of this model of public-private partnership to other districts in Niassa and to other Mozambican provinces.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: maputo@unicef.org  

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email: maputo@unicef.org

 

 
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