Q&A with Alinafe Kasiya
Malawi Deputy Country Director
Alinafe Kasiya is the new deputy country director for VillageReach in Malawi. He leads the DREAMS Innovation Challenge* work and supports operations of VillageReach in Malawi.
What are you most excited about in your new role?
In my new position, I am excited to be working with youth — the future of this country. When you spend time listening to their aspirations, you feel motivated to do all you can to ensure that this next generation of leaders, parents, etc., are well-prepared to face the world. Health is one of the most important aspects that we must address to ensure that youth can go on to lead happy, healthy lives. My current program, under the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, is working to support adolescent girls and young women to prevent HIV and promote good health through increasing access to sexual and reproductive health information, services and commodities.
What is the Malawi team working on right now?
We are working to find innovative solutions for youth to access advice and information on a range of sexual and reproductive health issues, such as menstruation management, HIV, sexually transmitted infections and family planning. VillageReach, in partnership with the Ministry of Health has, for the past few years, successfully run a health hotline service that provides information and advice on health matters to anyone in Malawi. This hotline is currently in the process of transitioning to a national health hotline operated by the Government of Malawi. We are using this existing opportunity to work with youth and other stakeholders to strengthen the capacity of this health hotline so that it can serve the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescent girls, boys and young women. We are also working to strengthen the capacity of twelve health facilities in two districts to provide youth-friendly health services.
What about your past experience has prepared you most for your new role at VillageReach?
I have worked to support the health sector in Malawi for over 10 years. I have been involved at every level– from the community level, working to develop community-led and owned solutions to promote good health for vulnerable populations, to the district and national levels where I worked to strengthen the capacity of the Ministry of Health to ensure increased access to quality healthcare. My knowledge and experience in supporting the health sector have prepared me well for this position. I hope that my new role with VillageReach enables me to continue to grow professionally, and most importantly to contribute to VillageReach’s efforts to ensure significant and long lasting positive changes in people’s lives.
In your opinion, what are the most critical barriers to healthcare in the communities we work with? How can VillageReach help address those challenges?
We have made significant progress in the health sector, for example in reducing HIV prevalence and maternal mortality. Still, many challenges remain, with high maternal mortality, malnutrition among children, high incidence of malaria, as well as other health problems. With limited resources, the government is faced with many pressures on how to allocate resources. These challenges cascade downwards to the lowest levels of service delivery — the last mile — where a shortage of trained staff and essential commodities mean that quality services are not always available when people need them. Some of these challenges, such as the shortage of essential commodities, are also as a result of poor supply chain management practices and standards. Long distances to health facilities is also a significant barrier for people to access services, particularly in rural areas.
VillageReach’s niche is working in partnership with the Government of Malawi, the private sector, and other stakeholders to develop innovative, low-cost and sustainable solutions to address these health challenges. We focus on how to ensure everyone, particularly those in rural areas, has access to quality health care (including preventive care and health information) when and where they need it.
*Funding for the DREAMS Innovation Challenge grant comes from PEPFAR and is managed by John Snow, Inc.