Name of the activity: IMUNZI
Country/NMO: Zimbabwe (ZiMSA), Denmark (IMCC)
Program: HIV/AIDS & Other STIs
Contact information: [email protected]
Type of the activity: Education
IMUNZI is a partnership project that focuses on the HIV problem in Zimbabwe, more specifically in the northwest province of Matebeleland North in the area around Victoria Falls.
IMUNZI is a partnership among IMCC- Denmark, a local charity organisation UNICA and ZiMSA-Zimbabwe. Funds come from the Danish Youth Council. The aim of the project is to strengthen the local youth’s knowledge of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases through interactive learning sessions. Victoria Falls is known as one of Zimbabwe’s major tourist attractions, but due to the great polarization of the country, the region is economically and healthily far behind the capital of Harare and the eastern part of the country. While in the eastern part of the country there has been significant economic, health and educational progress, the western part of the country has far from experienced the same progress and has been experiencing problems with a significantly higher prevalence of HIV / AIDS among local youths – up to 25 % of the population in this area, HIV is positive. HIV / AIDS is the main cause of orphans in Zimbabwe.
Many organisations are working on the same problem but we strongly believe our project is unique in its own way. We use peer to peer methods to teach on the subject of HIV and other related issues. Under the project we have periodical bootcamps in which Medical Students who are ZiMSA members go down to Victoria Falls and teach volunteers we call youth ambassadors in a week long bootcamp. As partners we developed fun games and activities which are conducted and have salient lessons on the subject of HIV/AIDS. After the bootcamp youth ambassadors go into different areas of the community and teach their peers.
In cities where ZiMSA is present, namely Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru we conduct Youth Against AIDS sessions in which we teach High School children and other Youth on the subject of HIV. The teaching encourages openness by utilising fun and interactive games as methods of teaching. Also in our local universities we have activities to reach out to fellow University students which we term IMUNZI on Campus. Just between January and September we had collectively reached out to over 6000 youths.
This is a good example of how Medical students and NGOs in different Nations can collaborate to contribute to a healthier world. I have no doubt that the project will go a long way in creating an HIV free generation.
Raising awareness among the general public about STIs
At the end of 2012 the WHO released statistics about HIV in Zimbabwe. These showed a huge improvement from the previous statistics but they were still cause for major concern. The HIV prevalence in the Nation was 14%. When one examined the statistics a little closer, those which showed the prevalence by province, one thing stood out. The HIV prevalence in a Province called Matebeleland North (Victoria Falls area) was 25%. This was not in sync with the statistics in the rest of the country as it was too high. Zooming into the population we figured that about 65% of the people in the province were youth and therefore they were the most affected by HIV
Along with those statistics, the UN put comprehensive sexual knowledge among the general youth population in Zimbabwe at 50%. This percentage is not satisfactory on its own. What was found even more worrying was that the Comprehensive Sexual knowledge among the Matebeleland North population was even lower than the national percentage. The reasons for this fact are a case study for another day.
Victoria Falls is known as one of Zimbabwe’s major tourist attractions, but due to the great polarization of the country, the region is economically and healthily far behind the capital of Harare and the eastern part of the country. While in the eastern part of the country there has been significant economic, health and educational progress, the western part of the country has far from experienced the same progress and has been experiencing problems with a significantly higher prevalence of HIV / AIDS among local youths – up to 25 % of the population in this area, HIV is positive.
It is a known fact that Sexual knowledge goes hand in hand with better and safer sexual practices. Increased comprehensive sexual knowledge is associated with lower incidence of HIV/AIDS in a population as studies have shown.
Our problem statement in Matebeleland North Province of ZIMBABWE was therefore, “There is increased HIV/AIDS prevalence in Matebeleland North because there is low comprehensive sexual knowledge among the Youth”
Target groups and beneficiaries:
In Matebeleland North we target the youth years who we call Youth Ambassadors. We take these twice a year on week long boot camp where we equip them with skills and knowledge to teach their peers. These youth ambassadors are usually unemployed youths in a community. At the boot camp they are trained by Medical Students who are ZiMSA members.
We then facilitate that these Youth Ambassadors go out and teach their peers throughout the year in High Schools, churches or community centres. These are the beneficiaries of the project. In a way our Youth Ambassadors are also beneficiaries as they are helped a lot by the knowledge we impart on them.
The community in Vic Falls are also beneficiaries as these activities will ultimately lead to a decrease in HIV/AIDS prevalence in their society.
In the cities with Medical schools. ZiMSA members go and teach every week in High Schools in which we call Youth Against AIDS sessions. These High School Children are also targets and beneficiaries of our project.
Objectives and indicators of success:
Numbers are very important to us as is the quality of the material we deliver. When we had the official partner visit in September this year we figured that we had reached out to at least 6500 youths in Zimbabwe just this year.
WE also see success in that we see more and more schools clamouring for us to teach as we have developed quite a reputation through our fun and interactive ways of teaching. Sometimes we actually get overwhelmed as we do teaching sessions in our free time of the busy Medical School timetable. Some schools we would have visited in the past actually call us back so we can teach different age groups we wouldn’t have taught in our prior visits. We also find ourselves being called to places where we normally don’t teach in e.g. churches after people see us teaching in different locations.
Also after every bootcamp we test the level of knowledge of those we would have trained in the bootcamp. We have a mini test which we developed as the minimum of comprehensive sexual education which we give all those who attend the bootcamp. The pass rate is over 95% in all the bootcamps we have conducted to date. The lowest pass rate was in which 89% passed.
We also encourage testimonies in the IMUNZI project. Youth who feel have benefitted from our teaching often write letters (some anonymous) talking of how they would have benefitted from our project and teaching.
Our greatest achievement is probably being featured in multiple newspapers and at one time we appeared on the National news. We have feature in articles both in Zimbabwe and in Denmark.
Twice a year we conduct a boot camp in Victoria Falls. IMCC in Denmark organizes the funding from the Danish Youth Council (DUF). Twice a year 5 ZiMSA delegates go down to Victoria Falls and teach about 80 Youth Ambassadors in each boot camp. The boot camp is organized by ZiMSA and UNICA. The role of UNICA (an NGO) working in Vic Falls is to mobilise the Youth ambassadors as they are the ones on the ground. The role of ZiMSA is to develop material to be taught to Youth Ambassadors and to teach Youth Ambassadors in the boot camp through fun and interactive methods. After the boot camp Youth Ambassadors go in their respective areas doing peer to peer education of whatever they would have learnt in the boot camp. This is facilitated by UNICA who organize and engage authorities for opportunities in which Youth Leaders can disseminate their knowledge. ZiMSA also developed the manual which is used by Youth Ambassadors and in YAA sessions.
In the 3 cities where there are medical schools, Harare, Gweru and Bulawayo. ZiMSA members conduct school visits every week which we call Youth Against AIDS (YAA). In these sessions we teach high school children on HIV and other aspects of Sexual and Reproductive Health.
IMCC has the role of maintaining financial books and bookkeeping for the project. They also do some administration and engage the donor, The Danish Youth Council. They also look out for training and networking opportunities which may benefit the project and the partners.
A pilot project was run between 2015-16. The partnership project runs from Dec 2016 to Dec 2018.
Plans for evaluation:
Before conducting a session we test the level of knowledge on sex and HIV. We do so by given a certain number of questionnaires to the target group before every teaching session. These questionnaires test the knowledge on basic aspects of the subject to be taught. They are distributed at random. WE then conduct the session and the target group learns. After the session we give the same questionnaire to the same individuals who filled in the first round. They answer the same set of questions. After the session we then compare the two sets of questionnaires from the same individual. We judge out of 10 how effective our teaching was by the level of improvement of the answers.
We also have official reports of YAA sessions and our bootcamps. We have partner meetings every quarter in which we sit down all 3 partners and evaluate the reports and compare with the past and see if our delivery is more effective with time.