Police in Karonga have embarked on a campaign to fight against violations done against young girls like forced marriages and defilement by training community policing officers from various communities on how they can handle such cases.
Karonga police station officer, McFarlane Happy Gumbo said cases of violations against girls in the district are becoming rampant because of poverty and some harmful cultural practices.
Gumbo further said that sometimes parents report cases of early marriages and defilements to police when it involves their daughters but later after being corrupted by the culprits, they return to police with false information to release the suspects claiming that their daughters are not under age; a scenario which promotes such violations.
“Cases of violations against girls are very high in Karonga mainly because of poverty in which some parents marry off their daughters to well-to-do men in a quest to rescue themselves from poverty which is uncalled for,” said Gumbo.
He therefore pleaded with parents to refrain from such conducts as it puts their daughters’ lives at risk and derails the development of the nation.
Gumbo commended the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for the initiative to support the training of the community policing officers with funds which he did not disclose.
Maternal health service delivery in Karonga district is expected to improve following the donation of assorted medical equipment.
The Institute for Integrated Women in Development (IIWD) made the donation on Monday to the hospital’s department of family planning services.
Items such as syringes, sterilised gloves, pain killers and an adult weighing scale for pregnant women all worth MK5 million were donated.
The organisation’s executive Director, Jane Makwera disclosed that her institution made the donation in response to the call by the district’s medical authorities for support.
“When nurses are administering family planning services to women, they need to have gloves which were lacking at the district hospital especially at the department of family planning so we thought of donating to them through our partners in Germany, the Brook Man Foundation,” said Makwera.
Apart from the medical equipment, the organization also decided to donate pain killers to help lessen the pain women go through when receiving some contraceptives and alo when giving birth.
Speaking to Capital FM after receiving the donation, the community health nurse responsible for the department of family planning services at the hospital, Ruth Ngwalu said the items will help them improve the quality of health service delivery thereby reducing maternal deaths and human population.
“They are our partners who help us when administering family planning services. The materials are indeed sterile because they are needed for a long term and they help in times of dire need more especially when women experience excessive virginal bleeding,” Ngwalu explained.
Statistics indicate that, Karonga district currently has a total population is at over 300,000 of which the number of those at childbearing age is 77,599 representing 23 percent of the total population.
Recent information obtained from the hospital, the district has expected pregnancies of 16,869 against the same rate of expected deliveries, representing 5 percent.
Paramount Chief Kyungu of the Ngonde clan in the northern districts of Chitipa and Karonga has expressed worry over the increasing tendency of marrying juvenile girls by some men in his territory.
The chief has since ordered the Malawi Police service to enforce the law on such unscrupulous men.
Kyungu made the order during the launch of A Family a Graduate Trust Fund Project last week.
Organised by the Foundation for Community Support Services (FOCUS), the project aims at raising MK10 million to pay as school fees to vulnerable young boys and girls in various institutions.
Speaking to the mass during the launch, Kyungu said the tendency of marrying off or marrying young girls in his territory leaves a lot to be desired hence the call for police to handcuff all perpetrators of the malpractice.
“Let me warn you all greedy parents who have the audacity to marry off your daughters on the pretext to eradicate your poverty levels and also those that take advantage of your poverty status to accept your offer thereby marrying your daughters at a tender age.
This is unconstitutional and once you are caught, you will face the law,” said the paramount chief.
He further added that the Ngonde Cultural Heritage will not leave the noble task to the hands of FOCUS alone to support the needy with school fees but it will also join the bandwagon to raise funds under the helm of his cultural heritage to complement on what the local non-governmental organisation has embarked on.
FOCUS Executive Director, Kossam Munthali acknowledged the benevolent approach by people from all walks of life including other stakeholders who generously digged into their pockets towards the project’s goal at the Karonga Museum Amphitheatre through a wedding anniversary which was organised for the same purpose during the launch of the project.
According to Munthali, the project requires about MK30 million to support over 100 learners in various institutions this academic.
Currently one of the projects main donor, Thom Pop AKA Mwanjawala of the United States of America has donated more than half of the required amount.
Meanwhile, 49 students are pursuing their studies in various colleges while others are in secondary schools and the organisation expects at least 100 students to graduate from colleges of which one graduate from each vulnerable family in the next five years through the same bursary scheme.
Young people in Karonga district can now breathe a sigh of relief after the introduction of a Youth Friendly Health Service facility at the district hospital which they have been longing for the past couple of years.
The facility is a response to an outcry from the youth which was made through a local organisation known as Kachira Youth Initiative (KAYI) which has been advocating for the same to enable the youth to access healthcare in a comfortable environment.
One of the youths, Davie Kitalo told Capital FM that now they are happy with the cooperation showcased by the health officials for the introduction of the facility which he said will help reduce a risk of contraction of sexually transmitted infections and even enable them to have easy access family planning methods.
KAYI executive director, Matchona Ngwira said this should not be a reason for the youth to indulge in casual sex hoping to get free treatment from the new facility.
Ngwira therefore advised the youth to abstain from premarital sex or be faithful to their sexual partners failing which they must always use condoms properly during intercourse.
He further said the facility is not only meant to provide medical treatment to them when they contract Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) but rather a place where they can interact with their peers and share knowledge and ideas on how they can live a healthy life an focus on their future.
In his words, District Youth Friendly Health Coordinator at the hospital, Davies Chelewani said they are now expecting young people to come in their large numbers to access their services.
Chitipa and Karonga district councils in collaboration with their health offices have adopted the standard operating procedures for proactive disclosure of information that gives opportunities to communities to access information regarding health service delivery in hospitals.
This is in line with the Access to Information Bill that was recently passed in parliament into a law.
According to the District Medical Officer for Chitipa, Esther Chirwa, the policy will help create mutual relationship between health personnel and communities thereby improving their living standards and health service delivery.
Although the two districts have adopted the standard operating procedures for proactive disclosure of information in health institutions, the Chitipa District Medical Officer, Esther Chirwa has called upon communities to desist from abusing the policy by demanding confidential information that is not meant for the public consumption.
“Although we have adopted this policy regarding to access to information, we don’t expect the citizenry to and ask for private information as we will only be issuing out information that can be presented to the public,” said Chirwa.
Concurring with the District Medical Officer, the Director of Planning and Development (DPD) for Chitipa, Tamanya Harawa says the most important thing is that the Malawi government through parliament has acknowledged the need for this law to the citizenry to enable them access information through the office of the district commissioner and the district health office that would help them make good choices regarding their health.
In his remarks, the project coordinator for Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) under the Osisa project dubbed Promoting High Quality, accountable and responsive public health service delivery, Innocent Nazombe says presenting information to the citizenry is not just a choice but an obligation as stipulated by the Access to Information Act backed by section 12 (3) of the statute of the republic of Malawi that promotes sustainability of trust between the state and the people.
Nazombe said this therefore serves to empower communities to access information from any health institution within the jurisdiction of the country to promote transparency and accountability so long as it does not infringe other people’s rights.
He added that barring communities from access to information is sometimes a scenario that arises from fear of the unknown by medics like embarrassment caused due to their unprofessionalism and uncalled for conducts contrary to Access to Information Act and policies stipulated in the standard operating procedures for proactive disclosure of information.