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Malawi, 6 April 2015: PSI: Projecting life-saving skills for the flood-displaced on a movie screen

PSI 2015
© PSI 2015
Movie night at the Malemia camp.

By Tiferanji Malithano

6 April 2015, CHIKWAWA, Malawi – A loud powerful female voice booms through a loudspeaker, out of a moving jeep, with the announcement, “Kanema, kanema, kanema” (cinema, cinema, cinema). This is a normal work day for Agatha Lungu, a long-time Interpersonal Communications Officer, with PSI (Population Services International). The announcement certainly grabs the attention of displaced campers in this isolated, flood-affected region of Malawi. A village woman, walking with a full bucket of water, comes to complete standstill, the children and goats follow suit.

This is not the first time PSI has visited Malemia camp, but tonight, instead of an early night with a solar powered torch, the community will gather in a flood-lit field to watch films that have transformed lives across this country. PSI is one of UNICEF’s key partners in C4D (Communication for Development) and has also been engaged for the flood efforts. Agatha explains the importance of this on-going partnership.

“With support from UNICEF we are helping communities to adopt key messages on health and hygiene within the camps. But more importantly, our efforts are working. Women, men and children now have access to new information and skills that they intend to take back home once their time at the camps is over.”

There is clear excitement in the camp, as the PSI’s Outreach Officer and technician, Seleman Kaliza, steps out of his fully-equipped van, unravelling wires and unveiling a large outdoor screen. Seleman, who has been with PSI for 15 years says the recent floods have made it almost impossible to reach some communities.

“It’s still tough to reach some communities due to poor roads,” he says. “We had two movie nights in camps within Chikwawa recently that we had to cancel. There were simply no bridges to cross over.”

Tonight’s movie in Malemia is popular in many of the camps. Campers refer to it as Jo, a story about a young man, who unfortunately contracted HIV due to unsafe sexual practices. For many rural communities, sex remains a taboo subject. Veronica Makhuvla, says PSI has helped women and men to open up and discuss important social issues within their communities:

“There is a saying in my community that says men are hunters, they are not supposed to be with one woman. This film really shows us the dangers of having multiple partners and most our men have got the message.”

The short movie Jo is quickly followed by two instructional movies: hand-washing, produced by UNICEF and General Hygiene for the Home by PSI. For 52 year-old Rose, these movies are crucial for her survival in the camps, especially given recent confirmed cases of cholera in Chikwawa and Nsanje districts:

“I don’t really fear contracting cholera. The messages are so clear. Wash your hands regularly. Keep your surroundings clean. These are simple instructions to follow. When it comes to our children, we are taught to supervise their use of latrines. I even used to think that children’s faeces are harmless, now I know better.”

As the crowds turn away and PSI packs up their equipment, Agatha admits that her work is challenging, but it also has moments of humour.

“Last week I brought female condoms to the camps. The shape and colours were so bright that the women thought they were sweets. To their surprise, I did a demo and they realized for the first time in their lives that they are in control of their sexual and reproductive health.”

PSI, will continue to partner with UNICEF, until 2016 in the provision of behavioural change communication intervention, WASH, care and treatment of HIV among children, as well as nutrition and information on maternal health.



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