By JOHN MUYAMBA
A young man is combining his love for sport and activism to raise awareness on Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC) in the Kavango East and West regions.
VMMC is a biomedical intervention in HIV prevention and is part of the Ministry of Health and Social Services’ combination prevention strategy.
The 31-year old Stephan Mungongi, an ambassador of the VMMC campaign in the two Kavango regions is the founder of the Mungongi Foundation which gives out information on HIV/AIDS through awareness campaigns to communities mainly through soccer and netball.
Mungongi is also a 2018 alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship and is affiliated to the Embassy of the United States of America (USA) in Namibia’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFRAR) programme which is the single biggest commitment by a government to fighting HIV/AIDS.
Mungongi uses sport to bring the message of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision closer to youths in the two regions.
“The Ministry of Health and Social Services appointed me as a local ambassador to promote their programmes of the VMMC and HIV/AIDS testing and this was done after I successfully implemented my project of the first ever Rundu Community Wellness Day in October last year that was funded by the U.S. Embassy after I came back home from the Mandela Washington Fellowship Programme in August,” Mungongi said.
“I took initiative to use sport and so far it has paid dividends and the Ministry of Health and Social Services’ VMMC campaign coordinator and other stakeholders such as the Walvis Bay Corridor Group were very excited about the results on the day. If granted funding by PEPFAR, for which I applied for my foundation to do this very same work, I pledge to continue to take this fight against this deadly pandemic to a whole new level,” Mungongi added.
He further explained that he has established a firm network with all stakeholders who are involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS and many young people are eager to work with him as they are seeing the impact of his initiative.
“The local authority of the Namibia Football Association in Kavango West (NFA) based in Nkurenkuru have communicated to me that the grassroots soccer leagues will be starting soon and that I should get my constituency teams ready for the new season and they have encouraged me to continue to implement this programme of motivating young men to get circumcised and to practice living a healthy lifestyle through my soccer league,” he said.
He further explained: “We are set to begin in mid-April with the soccer league, it is comprising of 360 young men aged 15 to 35. We are planning to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Social Services as well as other stakeholders to implement these programmes as soon as the league starts and until it ends in November.”
Mungongi also added that the same trend would continue next year “but it will be much easier if we get funding because what hinders us now are just resources and financial constraints to take this initiative forward”.
Last month, World Aids Day was celebrated in Kavango West on February 15. The event which is normally celebrated on December 1, was held on that day and saw a number of youths attending.
“The day was held to top off the Valentines week testing programmes that we conducted in Rundu in the Kavango East Region. We were in Rundu as from February 11 to 15 in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Services’ testing teams who operate from the Rundu State Hospital to carry out voluntary HIV testing and Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision. We also targeted institutions of higher learning in Rundu, including the University of Namibia and the International University of Management in Nkurenkuru where we reached out to young people aged 15 to 35. Many were tested and circumcised throughout the week, building towards the 15th of February,” Mungongi revealed.
And on February 15 at Musese village where they held the official World Aids Day for the Kavango West Region, more than 400 people attended, consisting mainly of schoolchildren, church leaders, traditional authority leaders, councillors, chief councillor. Some people came from across the river in neighbouring Angola to attend the event.
“As local ambassador for the health ministry’s programmes, my role is to create demand and awareness for this event (World Aids Day), spread the word and market it before the actual day (on which it is commemorated) so that many people attend. My role is to furthermore encourage young people, especially young men, to partake and eventually to make use of the free health services that the health ministry was providing,” Mungongi explained.
With soccer as a tool, Mungongi managed to motivate young men and women to attend the main event held on 15 February and organised a small soccer tournament that took place at the sports field just after the proceedings.