A healthy dose of loud music

Mzimba HSA blares music atop car to save community from COVID-19

Jack McBrams
Mr Robert Moyo showing COVID-19 tests before he commences vaccination
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Moving Minds
08 July 2022

Robert Moyo’s small white Mira is a common attraction around Kafukule in Mzimba. 

Whenever he drives around the community, loud music blaring from twin speakers mounted atop his car, one is assured that a hoard of young children will follow in tow, singing along to the music at play. 

Inside the car, a maze of wires heads in and out of a worn-out amplifier that connects the car’s radio to the speakers. A lone microphone also jacked into the amplifier sits in between the driver and passenger seats. 

One would think that this is a merchandiser’s car and that the blaring music is a marketing gimmick meant to draw attention to his goods or services.

That is until you notice a range of medicinal items in the backseat—a UNICEF-issue isothermal vaccine cold box, a box of syringes, and several medicines boxes.

When he parks and takes out his microphone to speak, then it all makes sense.

The forty-one-year-old Moyo is a health surveillance assistant at St Anne’s health post, which falls under Kafukule Health Centre north of Mzimba.

The married father of three has been an HSA for 15 years, but it is during the trying times of the pandemic that his dedication to duty have been called in question.

Realising that many myths and beliefs drove misconceptions around Covid-19 vaccination, Moyo used the only resources he had at his disposal to impact change. 

“I was driven to act because there were a lot of myths around here regarding Covid-19 vaccines based on people’s religions and beliefs. A lot of people avoided getting vaccinated. So, I sat down and tried to figure what I could do on my part to raise awareness and also fight the myths and misinformation,” he says.

Armed with a personal PA system, his car, and personal fuel, Moyo soon embarked on a journey to change Kafukule.

Robert’s colleague recording COVID-19 certificates
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Moving Minds
Robert’s colleague recording COVID-19 certificates

“When people hear loud music, they get curious and easily get attracted and rush to see what the noise is all about. In so doing, we use the opportunity to teach them about Covid-19 and Covid-19 vaccines. 

“The advantage of using a PA system is that I do not have to go door-by-door, and I just drive around the community to tell them I would be holding a meeting at the market, for instance, and they usually come in large numbers. That is when I hold sensitisation meetings and vaccinate those I have convinced,” he says. 

And the impact of Moyo’s passion is evident in the number of people who are now vaccinated in the area. 

Where he used to vaccinate around 10 to 20 people a day, Moyo can now vaccinate an average of 80 clients a day—all thanks to a healthy dose of loud music.

During the UNICEF Vaccinate my Village campaign, which the US Government funds for HAC ACT-A, the passionate health worker supported the campaign by using his resources in the area.

Robert vaccinating one of the learners
UNICEF Malawi/2022/Moving Minds
Robert vaccinating one of the learners

Moyo says citizens should not always wait for the government to step in all the time.

“In some instances, people have the ability and resources to impact change in their communities. We cannot always rely on government all the time,” he says.

Paul Nyondo, the deputy headteacher at Manthuru Primary School, where Moyo has conducted vaccinations on the student population, says the school is thankful to the HSA, who has been using his resources to reach out to the communities.

“The success shows because of the overwhelming number of school children that have received the vaccine. Most learners have been vaccinated, indicating that the message and method were effective. 

“As school management as well as community, we are thankful that the learners have been vaccinated as this will protect them from the deadly pandemic,” he says.

Once a vaccine sceptic, 16-year-old Standard 8 learner Roger Tembo says Moyo’s talk at the school swayed him into changing his mind.

“I made the decision [to vaccinate] because I listened to what the HSA told us, and I liked how he explained how the vaccine works, especially how he cleared the myths around vaccination,” he says.

Dr. Ghanshyam Sethy, UNICEF’s Health Specialist, hails the selflessness of HSAs in providing Covid-19 immunisation services to communities. 

“The work they are doing is exceptional,” he says.

According to Sethy, to reach the remotest areas of the country, UNICEF is running a ‘Vaccinate my Village’ campaign to support all 11,000 HSAs in the country. 

“Not a single HSA has been left behind with the strategy to ensure Covid-19 vaccine delivery. To support the HSAs, UNICEF is also running a Vaccination express. We have provided one branded mobile van per district with vaccines and logistics, including IEC and a public address system. 

“It also includes a team of four vaccinators, two supervisors, and a drama group to aid with disseminating information. The vaccine express moves around in the villages and urban areas in a prescheduled route planned and identified by districts to help people get the Covid-19 jab,” he explains.