community health workers

"Are family planning methods safe?” wondered Mutombo, a community health worker at the Kawama Village Health Center, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga Province. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Cross-posted on USAID's IMPACT blog.

“Don’t they contain a poison?” he added, directing his question to Isaac Chishesa, a community mobilization specialist with USAID’s Democratic Republic of Congo-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP).

Tough question! One Isaac was not expecting, at least not within a discussion among trained community health workers.

An experienced community health professional, Isaac responded with a smile and said, “Thank you, my friend, for sharing your concern,” affirming the participants’ right to ask questions. “Family planning methods are safe,” he reassured the group. “Based on international quality standards, each method is required to go through extensive testing before it is made available to the public.”

The faces of Mutombo and his peers lit up. They sighed, a collective sigh of relief, and burst out laughing to relieve some of the tension. They all recognized that even though they were dedicated to bringing about improvements in health behaviors, they, like most of their fellow community members, harbored misconceptions and rumors about family planning.

Cross-posted from the Global Health Magazine blog.

How did Malawi control its brain drain?

The British Medical Journal issued a report last month estimating that nine African countries have lost $2 billion worth of investment in training and educating doctors who have subsequently migrated abroad. It needn't be this way. Doctors, nurses and other health professionals do not have to give up home, family and country to earn enough money to give themselves and their children a future, even a modest one. And it needn't cost low income countries billions of dollars to train the doctors and nurses who then leave for greener pastures.

Leafing through Malawi’s Nation newspaper, the headline, 'wild men in society escalating rape cases' jumps off the page. I pause and stare at the accompanying photo and caption.

An estimated 400 people gathered in Asram, Togo, to watch a ceremony introducing 250 newly-trained community health workers -- part of the Action for West Africa Region II (AWARE II) project, supported by USAID and led by MSH.

"Leading a community to become healthy is not just a male thing," says Águida Curo Vican, president of the Local Development Committee of Tutumbaru in Peru’s Ayacucho region.

A Health Surveillance Assistant offers HIV-Testing and Counseling (HTC) in a Resthouse Room at Sombi

 

Picture trees, water, mountains, mud, birds and fish. This is Lake Chirwa -- the second largest of the five lakes in Malawi and the main habitat of small fish called Matemba. The lake offers a trading opportunity for fishermen from many walks of life.

Lying in the southern region of Malawi, Lake Chirwa is a wetland for people of three districts: Phalombe, Zomba and Machinga. All these people have frequent contact with Mozambique as they lie near the bordering frontiers. The lake lies some 50km from Zomba District Health Office.

Mary Umoh, colleague and friend -- and one of the winners of an internal MSH abstract contest for staff -- traveled from Nigeria to Rome to present her poster at the 6th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2011).

Blog post updated Dec. 27, 2011.

Taj Bibi learns how to use zinc and oral rehydration salts to treat her child. Photo credit: BASICS/Afghanistan, MSH.

Taj Bibi sits nursing her 5-month-old baby in the kitchen of her home in the village of Sartal in Takhar province in Afghanistan’s north. The room is dark; the only natural light comes from the doorway to the dusty courtyard outside. The sound of her children playing echoes across the small family compound.

Bibi’s first two children died -- one of them from severe diarrhea -- because the family could not afford to take them to the doctor. “Now, if our children get diarrhea or any other illness, I take them to the community health worker,” she said.

Community health workers (CHWs) are the building blocks of the Afghan health system, bringing basic health services to villages across the country.

Orou Assoumanou describing the work within his community to Dr. Lola Gandaho, of BASICS Benin.

 

Living in the rural village of Kpagnaroung, Benin, Orou Assoumanou is a dedicated health worker who promoted vaccinations and distributed ivermectin (a medicine used to treat roundworm) within his community before receiving training by the MSH-led, USAID BASICS (Basic Support for Institutionalizing Child Survival) project in community-case management. The comprehensive BASICS training improved his ability to offer care and enabled him to treat children within his community.

With the arrival of a trained community health worker able to prescribe medications, members of his community no longer have to travel long distances to seek medical care for their children. In fact, Orou says that crowds would form at his door to receive care.

 

 

 

 

Women waiting for health services outside of Tambura PHCC, South Sudan.

 

Sitting under the lush mango trees in rural Tambura, South Sudan, I realized Mother’s Day was approaching and I needed to send my mom in Chicago a gift. More and more each year, I treasure my mom, who raised four children. But this year, while working on a health project in South Sudan, my appreciation and wonderment is also for mothers worldwide.

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