“My three children were all down with a fever," recalls Mariam Machuchu, a mother living in Nyabikayi village in the western county of Migori, Kenya. “We visited Isebania Sub County hospital, but we could not receive treatment as there were no health workers.”
Mariam is not alone in her dilemma. For many people living in areas, like Migori county, where malaria and other diseases that cause fever are prevalent, health services are not always readily available, and hospitals may be located far from home.
Then, Mariam learned from her neighbors about the community health volunteer, Kerata Chacha, who works in her village.
Kerata is one of the tens of thousands of community health volunteers in Kenya trained to provide basic health prevention services and treat common ailments and illnesses, including malaria.
Kerata knows that hospitals are not always accessible for the people in his village. “People here are poor, getting fare to the hospital is a challenge, and for malaria, there is no time for delays,” he said. Because of this, Kerata was inspired to join the ranks of Kenya’s community health volunteers to ensure his community has access to the health services they need. Kerata goes door-to-door visiting families in 30 households, like Miriam’s, in Nyabikayi, bringing health care to them.
Kerata is among 405 new community health volunteers in Migori County that received an intensive 3-day training from the Kenya Ministry of Health on the diagnosis, treatment and management of malaria during January to March 2020. The training was made possible through the support of the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and its flagship malaria service delivery project, PMI Impact Malaria.
A community health volunteer talking to mothers about life-saving health interventions in Migori County, Kenya. Photo credit: IM Kenya
During the training, Kerata learned how to correctly diagnosis fevers, test, and treat positive malaria cases with antimalarial drugs, as recommended by the World Health Organization and the Kenya Malaria Treatment Guidelines. Kerata also learned when he should refer complicated cases to the hospital. In addition, his training stressed communicating preventive measures, such as the proper use of insecticide treated bed nets to fend off mosquitoes that transmit malaria.
When Kerata visited Mariam and her sick children at their home, he was able to put his training to use. He identified their symptoms, tested them for malaria and was able provide the appropriate treatment. Without prompt attention from Kerata, the health of Mariam’s children was at risk—in 2019, 67% of deaths globally due to malaria infection were children under the age of five.
Community health volunteers, like Kerata, reach communities that need health services, such as malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment, that may be otherwise out of reach of traditional health care facilities.
As Alphonce Nyakech, a technical officer with PMI Impact Malaria in Migori County, explains, “Their role at the community is very critical. With funding from PMI [and through] PMI Impact Malaria’s efforts . . . we have witnessed an increase in access to quality malaria case management after conducting the trainings.”
PMI Impact Malaria is funded and technically assisted by the U.S. President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) and is led by Population Services International (PSI) in partnership with Jhpiego, Medical Care Development International (MCDI), and UCSF.
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