19 November 2012

Zambia: Compact Project - Helping to Mitigate Effects of HIV

THE HIV/AIDS pandemic still remains a challenge to society world over despite several interventions being put in place to reduce the suffering that goes with it.

Countless lives have been lost in turn leading to a soaring increase in the number of orphaned and vulnerable children.

It is against this background that many organisations have been formed and mandated with a task to strive day and night in the hope of finding a solution that would halt the spread of this pandemic

One such organisation is the Community Mobilisation for Preventive Action Compact (COMPACT) which is a project funded by the American Government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

COMPACT has been in existence since October 2010 and is being implemented by the population council in partnership with Project Concern International (PCI).

It also aims to develop and determine the feasibility of community compacts as an innovative approach to prevent HIV/AIDS in Zambian communities.

In Zambia COMPACT is so far working with six communities namely Kaniki, Kawama and Mushili in Ndola others are Chinyunyu, Chongwe and Nangwenya in Chongwe Constituency.

In these communities COMPACT aims to mobilise the people in efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS through a capacity building process that enables communities to identify prevention targets and develop interventions in order to achieve positive results.

Compact has brought along a number of benefits to the society at large.

For instance COMPACT has worked with the community to design and implement incentives to reward communities for reaching out to their targets.

Thus on October 30, 2012, COMPACT held a community award ceremony where assorted goods were dished out to Ndola's Mushili ward which had achieved a USAID set AIDS prevention benchmark.

The set benchmark was for Mushili to set up community action groups that are implementing HIV/AIDS prevention interventions.

Compact has also embarked on a survey that is meant to assist Government, stakeholders and communities obtain information about the high levels of risky behaviour as well as that of HIV/AIDS infections so that planners are adequately informed before deciding which sensitisation programmes to embark on.

The ceremony began on a colourful note with a song and dance from a Catholic women's choir clad in Patriotic Front regalia due to the mere fact that the event was a proven Government milestone.

This was followed by a performance from gospel song-bird Roberta who sang her hit-track Eko tuleya much to the thrill of the audience most of whom thronged the dance floor.

A sketch by the Mushili drama group which talked of a family whose future had been wrecked because the head of the household had led a careless lifestyle that resulted into his death concluded entertainment proceedings.

After all the laughter and dance, it was down to the main programme which began with an address from COMPACT chief of party Chabu Kangale who congratulated the Mushili community compact development committee for a job well done.

"My heart felt congratulations go to you the community of Mushili for participating in the COMPACT project, we are very grateful," said Mr Kangale.

He also congratulated the local leadership led by Ndola mayor Davis Chiwala as well as the provincial health office for their continued support to COMPACT.

Mr Kangale tasked all community leaders with the responsibility to ensure that they monitor the use of the donated gifts so that progress could be brought to the community.

"The gifts we have brought today are not for the benefit of one individual, they are community goods that are intended to not only further the goals of HIV/AIDS prevention measures but must also motivate the community to do more in order to prevent new infections from occurring," he said.

Mr Kangale reviewed that there were other incentives in place should Mushili community continue achieving the set benchmarks.

"Achieving the next benchmarks will attract even bigger incentives for you, so I urge you to work extra hard so that your community can receive more awards in the near future," he concluded.

At the same occasion the United States Government through USAID pledged its total support to the Zambian Government in its quest to combat HIV/AIDS.

In his address to the gathering USAID /Zambia HIV/AIDS Multispectral Nutrition, Care and Support Advisor Abeje Zegeye said his organisation was aware of the Zambian community's dedication in ensuring that HIV/AIDS was over-come.

"At USAID we know that in order to make a lasting impact on HIV/AIDS in Zambia, communities need to be involved in the solution and you the citizens of Mushili have proven your commitment in ensuring that HIV/AIDS is kicked out of your community," he said.

USAID's COMPACT project worked with community members in Mushili to determine what drives HIV/AIDS in rural communities, develop interventions and set goals so that the pandemic does not spread further.

Mr Zegeye observed that corporation improves the well-being of the society and urged the community to unite against HIV/AIDS as well as other social ills such as gender based violence.

"As you all know HIV/AIDS just like gender based violence affects more women than men, hence it is important that we all support and protect each other from disease and violence," he said.

Mr Zegeye assured the community that USAID was committed to working hand in hand with Zambian communities in order to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS.

He also urged Mushili ward to keep up the good work in order for them to achieve the next target.

And Ndola Mayor Davis Chiwala commended the Community Compact Development Committee (CCDC) for a job well done in meeting the set mentioned benchmarks.

"I am happy with the work that CCDC is doing in not only teaching about HIV/AIDS but also encouraging people not to abuse alcohol which when highly consumed can have grave consequences on one's life," he said.

Mr Chiwala also revealed that Government had put in place intervention measures aimed at reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"For instance, we have ensured that in most clinics, pregnant women access information on prevention of mother to child transmission so I urge you all to access these services from our health facilities here in Ndola and beyond," he said.

Mr Chiwala also expressed his gratitude to the American people through USAID for the financial support they had rendered to COMPACT.

Among the goods donated to Mushili Clinic were one refrigerator which would be used to store drugs at and three benches which would be used by patients waiting to be attended to.

COMPACT also donated two DVD players and two 21 inch television sets which would be used by the constituency office as a means to communicate the dangers of contracting HIV/AIDS.

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