‘Salt, Health and Light’ Community Health Project

The ‘Sal, Luz e Saude’ (Salt, Light Health) project of the Diocese of Niassa was started in 2005 to address the health needs of people living along the shore of Lake Niassa; a remote area of northern Mozambique.

Many children were dying from easily preventable and treatable diseases, such as malaria, diarrohea, respiratory infections, malnutrition; women were dying during pregnancy and child birth and there were indications that HIV was spreading fast. Half of the population lived more than 15 miles from a basic health facility and the only means of transport were foot or boat.

The project was initiated by Dr Peg Cumberland after Bishop Mark Van Koevering told her of the repeated requests he’d received from local communities for the Diocese to open health centres in the area. Peg who had already set up two other health projects in Mozambique, spent several weeks meeting with communities listening to their concerns and hopes and working with them to develop a plan that would respond to the area’s health in ways that made optimal use of local resources.

The plan involved training local volunteers to become Community Health Workers (CHW’s) and setting up community health committees to oversee the CHW’s and mobilise the wider community to participate in health interventions. Since the project’s inception more than 440 CHW’s have been trained. The services they provide include health education, treatment of common illnesses, ante-natal care and safe delivery, family planning, HIV counselling and testing and data collection.

A project team was established to help train the CHWs and committees and provide on-going supervision and support. This team have now taken over the running of the project and Peg has now turned her attention to innovative Epilepsy treatment and training. The project area has grown to cover 28,000 people living in 52 communities along 90 miles of the shore of Lake Niassa and in the adjacent mountains.

Regular monitoring has shown a decline of more than 60% in child mortality, a 300% increase in vaccination coverage and a 500% increase in pregnant women attending two or more ante-natal consultations. The Provincial Health Department is requesting the Diocese to replicate the project in other districts.

Like many long-standing projects, MANNA has been assisting this work from the beginning by helping to channel funds from UK supporters. This short film made by another of Diocese of Niassa’s partners – Anglican Overseas Aid – depicting some of the aspects of the Community Health and Development work in Niassa gives a wonderful idea of its important work: