Meet the Team: Waziri Nyoni, VectorWorks

CCP’s headquarters is in Baltimore, but our staff are based all over the world. Waziri Nyoni is Chief of Party in Tanzania for CCP’s VectorWorks project, which is focused on global malaria prevention through vector control. Before joining VectorWorks, he worked on our Sio Kila Homa ni Malaria (Not Every Fever is Malaria) initiative, promoting proper testing and treatment for malaria and working to reduce self-medication that could lead to the development of antimalarial resistance in Tanzania.

He shared a few memories with us about past campaigns, and his personal path to public health, when he visited Baltimore this summer.

Waziri Nyoni, Chief of Party for VectorWorks in Tanzania

I have worked with CCP for eight years in different capacities. I started with the five-year malaria project called Communication and Malaria Initiative in Tanzania (COMMIT). In the COMMIT project, I started as a program manager and then went on to become the Deputy Chief of Party. The project was folded into another project, the Tanzania Capacity and Communication Project (TCCP). Right now, I’m working as the Chief of Party for VectorWorks.

I think that social and behavior change communication (SBCC) has a great value in terms of bridging the gap between service and products. After the introduction of the malaria rapid diagnostic tests in Tanzania, some of the providers were sort of skeptical about trusting the tests. The clients were convinced that malaria was still very high and they couldn’t understand how the test could come back negative. So both sides, the client and provider, did not trust the test results.

A still from a Not Every Fever Is Malaria (Sio Kila Homa ni Malaria) television commercial.

We had to do a communication campaign to address those challenges. Our tagline was: Not Every Fever Is Malaria (Sio Kila Homa ni Malaria). The umbrella approach was to position professional providers to treat based on test results and not subscribe to the demands of clients who have a fever and think they have malaria. We created an atmosphere where we modeled professional providers who treat based on the test results. It was successful because we put a light touch of stigma to those who did not adhere to the test results. If the test results say negative, we positioned it as a taboo for someone to prescribe anti-malaria medication.

Growing up, I lived with my mother who was working as a schoolteacher and there was no medical insurance, so everything had to be paid for. If there was any sickness in the family, that’s the last thing we would want. It was a very painful process. I remember at that time we were just coping with mosquito nets. There was no technology, no treatment kits or treated nets. Even the testing options, it was more guesswork. If you go to the hospital, sometimes you get treatment or referred to a district hospital. It might take you a couple of hours to get there and you might have to spend the night. If you factor in all of these costs, it’s going to take half of your income.

I know, reflecting back, we were somehow lucky because we made it through without death but there were instances growing up that we were very worried. I saw my other relatives passing away and children passing away. Sometimes we didn’t understand what was the cause but now we can reflect back and know that this could have changed in some way.

Children in a classroom at Kamunyonge Primary School during a school bed net distribution event in Musoma, Tanzania.
© 2016 Riccardo Gangale/VectorWorks, Courtesy of Photoshare

When I do my work, I cannot take that away. When I look at these families in crisis, you know for sure that if we’re able to prevent or help them manage HIV and get them into proper family planning, you relieve a huge burden, you give them more time to work.

I look at where I am today, if things would have gone wrong in between, maybe I would not even be sitting here today. For me, it’s very personal, I look at these kids and I say, I was like these kids when I was young.

To learn more about VectorWorks in Tanzania, visit their website here.