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A choir of care: Zimbabwe’s health heroes

In the poorest regions of the world, 1 in 5 children never make it to their 5th birthday. Additionally, almost 800 women around the world die every day due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth – with 99% of these deaths occurring in developing countries.

But there's a hopeful hum filling rural communities across Zimbabwe, and it's having a lifesaving effect. A choir composed of Plan staff, village health workers, and volunteers is travelling from village-to-village to raise awareness and their voices – all while harnessing the power of music and dance.

So, what does change sound like?

The choir’s passion is evident in their contagious energy, but they’re doing far more than just raising spirits with their hopeful harmonies. Singing from the heart, the group shares important health information with pregnant women, mothers, and their male partners, encouraging them to seek medical care.

Whether promoting prenatal and postnatal care, use of skilled birth attendants, or visits to medical clinics, the catchy choruses are resonating with locals – bringing the songs to life in a very real way.

Changing the tune on healthcare

Vimbai lost 3 of her children within the span of 5 years – each from preventable diseases like the measles, malaria and the flu. After finding out about Plan’s work in her Zimbabwe community, she learned more about the importance of vaccinations and treatment.

“I saw that it was best to seek medical care from the diseases my children were contracting,” she says, adding “I thought it best for my children to get immunized against diseases … I see now that those diseases are both preventable and treatable.”

Vimbai now has strong and healthy 5 year old twins. “The community health workers are very helpful to us … I am very happy to be holding my 2 children today,” she says. Motivated to protect the health of even more children, she continues to share her story and what she has learned with others.

“I encouraged others to seek medical help for their children. They were reluctant at first, but they saw the benefits.”

An infant gets vaccinated at a mobile community clinic

Across a multi-country project in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Zimbabwe more than 150,300 children have been vaccinated against measles.

Spreading the word, stopping disease

Since initiating efforts in Plan-supported Zimbabwe communities we have seen significant improvements – making us want to sing the results out loud and proud.

During the 2014 calendar year alone:

  • More than 13,000 children were vaccinated against measles and/or received Pentavalent 3 – a vaccine which combines 5 vaccines in 1: diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b (bacteria that causes viral infections like meningitis and pneumonia)
  • Over 5,500 women accessed 4 prenatal care sessions and/or delivered with a skilled health professional

And as of September 2014:

  • 72% of mothers received postnatal care within three days of childbirth (an increase of 14% from October 2013)
  • 99.5% of infants (12-23 months) received 3 doses of the Pentavalent vaccine (an increase of 5% from October 2013)
Taking the lead for mothers and children

In 2000, the United Nations made a commitment to reduce preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs 4 and 5), which Canada vowed to help support (and continues to do so through the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals).

With the support of the Government of Canada and our many generous donors, Plan has been contributing to global Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) initiatives in the developing world. In fact, we’re working with local partners and governments in over 2,750 hard-to-reach communities across 7 countries: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Being a community-based child rights organization, Plan collaborates with local children and adults to develop unique and inclusive approaches (like health choirs) for spreading awareness, providing crucial resources and changing behaviours in meaningful and lasting ways.

The health choir dances and holds a banner reading: 'Leaders take a lead in supporting pregnant women, it’s your responsibility.'

Across all Plan MNCH projects (from January 2013 to March 2014) more than 640,000 infants and children have received vaccinations, medications and treatment to keep them alive. Now that’s a good reason to dance, sing and celebrate!

What you can do

Together, we’ve made huge gains to protect the world’s mothers and children, but millions are still at risk.

By purchasing a newborn checkup, you’ll support the essential work of community health workers in developing countries – helping ensure that babies thrive and new moms recover well after delivery. And, because this Gift of Hope is matched by our generous partners, your $30 donation will go 4x further, protecting even more lives.

This project receives financial support from the Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.