Mozambique: A field officer developing community capacity in malaria prevention

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Field officer Castélio Muwasse

Story collected by Dorca Nhaca and edited by Fernando Bambo in November 2017

Ilha de Moçambique is an idyllic island for visitors; it was once the capital of Mozambique and is now a world heritage site. But for the local population as well as for visitors, there is a threat that darkens the picture: the risk of getting malaria, a potentially deadly disease that remains the main cause of health problems in Mozambique.

Castélio Muwasse, a Field Officer for Malaria Consortium, works in the District of Ilha de Moçambique. This 31-year old technician in preventive medicine and environmental sanitation joined the Malaria Prevention and Control Project team in 2016, motivated by the desire to work with communities and learn new experiences.

As a field officer, the responsibilities of Castélio included support for the District Health Services in the implementation of project activities, training of community structures and teachers on malaria prevention, collection and compilation of activity monitoring data, and coordination between health facilities and community structures, such as health committees and local organisations, and between district education and health services.

In addition to mobilising community structures for malaria prevention, he coordinated the training of teachers with the school health technician of the District Education Services.

“With the schools, I worked well without major constraints. We managed to train the teachers and they reported the work done monthly. There was good collaboration from teachers and school directors.”

Castelio is based at the District Health Services office, but actually spends a lot of time traveling on his motorcycle to reach the various communities and health facilities scattered throughout the district, even the most remote ones. With this knowledge of the terrain, he is able to draw a detailed map of the district in just a few minutes.

In order to work effectively with community structures, it is essential to build a trusting relationship. Castélio joined Malaria Consortium to replace a field officer who had worked with these communities for a few years so he had to use all his interpersonal communication skills to gain the trust of the volunteers.

”Throughout the project I have had good moments. One of these was when I was accepted by the communities and received a warm welcome. This was crucial as they were open to listening to the messages and to making use of them. ”

Castélio says that the communication activities for behaviour change carried out by community structures volunteers, teachers and students have contributed to the reduction of malaria cases, partly as a result of their collaboration.

“We have noted that there is a reduction in the number of malaria cases, a reduction in the misuse of mosquito nets, an improvement in environmental sanitation and a better uptake of the use of mosquito nets, Previously, families would take the nets to go fishing or cover their gardens.”

This is certainly the most rewarding part of being a field officer on the ground. This type of work also offers many learning opportunities for young professionals, such as Castélio, to grow.

“Personally, with the project, I learnt a lot, gained a lot of knowledge and experience. I learnt to be a more open person. One of the lessons I take with me is that working with communities is not an easy task, but humility, love, care and patience are key to success and to overcoming certain difficulties.”

The Malaria Prevention and Control Project has been implemented in nine of the 11 provinces of Mozambique by a consortium of civil society organisations  led by World Vision, with Malaria Consortium, Community Development Foundation and Food for The Hungry. Malaria Consortium carried out interventions in 17 districts of the province of Nampula and six districts in Niassa. Castélio Muwasse is one of the 23 field officers who worked with Malaria Consortium to implement communication activities to change behaviours at the community level.