Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) play an important role in expanding the provision of health care at the community they serve whilst providing solutions to community needs at the local level. In Merti North and Bassa location, CHVs are as termed as agents of change championing early detection of malnutrition at household level. As the cornerstone of community engagement, in rural set ups, they have been found to be effective in reduction of child mortality attributed to acute malnutrition. Since the roll out of the MOH/ UNICEF Family MUAC program, the CHVs have been conducting regular households visit to improve the awareness on early detection and referral of children with severe acute malnutrition.
“The mother is the most important care giver. However, most of them are illiterate. The regular household visit has provided an interactive platform for us to transfer skills on the use of the Family MUAC enabling mothers and caregiver to screen, monitor and self-refer under nourished children to health facilities,” said CHV Barwaqo Mohammed Yusuf.
Barwaqo Mohammed Yusuf, as an award- winning Community Health Volunteer has been providing health care solutions to community members since the year 2000. She has been at the forefront of child mortality and malnutrition campaigns tirelessly sensitising caregiver on importance of screening their children for acute malnutrition. However, she still faces cultural barriers while conducting the household visit.
“Sometimes, households are not comfortable being interviewed and referred to hospitals as they believe in traditional medication. However, the use of local dialect during training has boosted my social recognition,” Said CHV Barwaqo Mohammed.
Yunis Roba, with 6 years of experience as a Community Health Worker assigned to conduct screening and monitoring in Merti North shares the importance of having a close relationship with the caregivers. A relationship that is built through regular monitoring and follow-ups to the households.
“Through conducting multiple visits to households, I am able to monitor and follow-up to confirm whether the mothers and caregivers are accurately and regularly screening their children. Continuous screening results to early detection of acute malnutrition contributing to increase in uptake of treatment services,” said CHV Yunis Roba.
Adequate training, supervision and motivation of CHVs is essential in ensuring high quality performance of CHWs at the community level. Kenya Red Cross in partnership with UNICEF and the County Government of Isiolo provided technical training for 40 CHVs on MUAC screening. During the training sessions, the CHVs were equipped with skills on community engagement through using local dialect with practical demonstrations.
“The trained Community Health Volunteers have been empowered in such a way that they have been able to transfer the skills to caregivers in their respective Community Units. During the training, I reiterate the importance of integrating the Family MUAC in other programmes undertaken by the CHVs to achieve continuity and sustainability,” explained sub-county Community Health Strategy Focal Person, Abdullahi Abdirahim.
On a monthly basis, the Kenya Red Cross Regional Nutrition Officer and Community Health Strategy Focal Persons convene technical review sessions with the CHVs, to discuss the current status of Family MUAC implementation and scale-up process by Community Health Volunteers to increase the coverage of caregivers within the community Units.