health surveillance assistants

If you grow up in places like Kasungu district in rural Malawi, you learn that when your wife is pregnant, you should not have sex outside marriage---because you will lose the “expected gift” through miscarriage. Male promiscuity during a partner's pregnancy is a taboo that many believe will bring a curse on the family.

Patricia Patrick says that after she miscarried in November 2008 “People talked in the village, and people talked within the household. My relatives asked me suspicious questions.” They wondered whether sexual misbehavior by her husband caused the tragedy. She remembers her husband telling his side of the story to prove his innocence, but nobody believed him.

Malawi has some of the worst health statistics in the world, ranking 166 out of 177 countries. This is the result of HIV & AIDS, food insecurity, weak governance, and many human resources challenges. Health care vacancies range anywhere from 30-80%, and Malawi only has 252 doctors in the entire country. The health system is regularly plagued with stock outs of key medicines and supplies, as a result of poor procurement and distribution practices. Malawi has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world; the average prevalence for sub-Saharan Africa is 7.5%, Malawi has 12% prevalence in the adult population.

More than 50% of Malawi’s population lives further than 5 km from a health center.  Health care workers in the community, who are capable of providing essential health care services to those living in ‘hard to reach areas,’ are essential.  Meet the HSAs – Health Surveillance Assistants.

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