Gandali in walking in the Hills of Usisya

By Limbani Ngwata

Usisya in NkhataBay is 65 Kilometres away from Mzuzu city. The area is one of the hardest to reach in Malawi. The terrain of Usisya is hilly and not easy to travel with a car especially when one is coming from Mzuzu. Although the beautiful nature of Usisya is fascinating. Many people in Usisya are fishermen.

Water is the major transport in this beautiful area; people to move from one area to the other to visit their friends in Usisya have to use Boat. It can take over 3 hours on the water to reach the village. IRS team visited Mulunguzivillage, 4 hours from the boat stage.

The village is at the peak of Usisya hills. Finding the village one has to walk as there is no transport means. One has to do hiking of over 4 hours to visit the village. As one walks to the Mulunguzi village all you hear are birds singing beautiful song. One is able to see the pride of Malawi (Lake Malawi) from the top.

Going to Mulunguzi village which has a population of about 290 people one has to brave crumbling mountain walls.

The road is criss-crossed with running streams which render it impassable during rainy season.

This is where World Vision Malawi with funding from Global Fund is fighting malaria through Indoor Residual Spray (IRS).

World Vision spray operators have really to endure the heat and sacrifice to reach the mountain top to find structures to fumigate.

One of the World Vision spray operators Vitumbiko Gandali, 24,who also comes from Usisya says she is proud to be part of malaria solution in her area.

Gandali says serving people is her passion as she aims to upgrade her studies and do any health programmes like nursing to help her community.

“Malaria is a very big problem in Usisya. I will be happy to see malaria eradicated in my hometown. Above all I feel proud to be part of malaria fight,” says Gandali who was the only lady in a team of men who managed to climb Usisya hills to spray structures.

“Today we woke up around 02:00 AM to the site. We started off around 04:00 AM to the mountain top to do our job. It took us about 4 hours to find the first structures to spray. After that we had to walk another 1 hour 45 minutes to find other structures to spray, structures are very scattered and far from each at the mountain top,” she says saying sometimes due to the terrain of the area it is hard to meet the target sometimes as time is spent on walking looking for houses.

In Usisya people depend on road and water transport. However, according to citizens in the area during rainy seasons, there is no public transport to the area as vehicle operators are usually afraid of accidents. As a result people depend much on water transport even though it also becomes hard especially when the weather is not good on the lake.

Asked how such terrain affects her job as a spray operator, Gandali was quick to say it is a sacrifice walking long distances during the spray exercise as many places even during dry season water or land transport cannot be used.

“You see where we are; you can’t find even a bicycle. One has just to be physically and mentally fit as there is no means of transport to get at the mountain top where the structures are. Passion for the job is also supreme. It is about serving lives. Life is what matters most,”claims Gandali.

Commenting on Indoor Residual Spray (IRS) in Usisya and NkhataBay in general, district coordinator for the IRS in NkhataBay Kingstone Mlambia says the district is highly burden with malaria in Malawi. He says over nearly 70,000 structures are targeted in NkhataBay.

“Taking into account the terrain of the district we started with the hard to reach areas. Spray operators sometimes have to walk long distances to find structures,” says the district coordinator pointing out that Usisya is one of the hardest to reach areas for spray operators.

“Our team is well trained and dedicated. Despite poor terrain; they are able to reach all targeted structures,” he adds stressing that there is concerted efforts from all stakeholders to make sure that all structures in the district are reached out for spray.

Asked as how happy he is that his team is able to reach to places where others essential services rarely reach in parts of the district like Usisya because of the landscape, the coordinator says the recruitment procedure of the spray operators is a result of the success.

“With IRS we are reaching everywhere in the district. We make sure that even the last structure is sprayed. One of the strength about this program is that we have employed people from those areas because of that they are doing with passion as they know the goal of intervention. Not only that, they are doing the job knowing that they are serving their own brothers, sisters, friends among others,” he recounts.

“I am very glad taking part in reducing malaria in Malawi especially in NkhataBay. Being part of that impact will make me proud. It is historical and remarkable experience,” Mlambia says.

Indoor residual spraying (IRS), a proven and highly effective malaria control measure, involves the spraying of residual insecticide on the interior walls of homes to kill mosquitoes, thereby interrupting malaria transmission.

The primary effects of IRS towards reducing malaria transmission are: It reduces the life span of vector mosquitoes, so that they cannot live long enough to transmit malaria parasites from one person to another; it reduces the density/number of the vector mosquitoes.

Some insecticides used in IRS also repel mosquitoes and by so doing reduce the number of mosquitoes entering the sprayed houses and thus reduce human-vector contact.

The success of IRS however requires high coverage which is dependent on its acceptability

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