When health services are in the hands of communities

By Achel Bayisenge, Communications, World Vision Burundi

43-year-old Josephine is happy to be equipped with tools and drugs that help her fight against malaria

In the courtyard of a modest house in the rural areas of Burundi, Josephine, a Community Health Worker (CHW) is sitting next to a table with a metal box on it. The box contains a complete toolkit donated by World Vision to help fight against malaria. Josephine sometimes takes her box outside to make sure everything is in its place to avoid unpleasant surprises. Her box may run short of drugs and she would be unable to attend to the patients of her community. The living room of her modest house is a little dark and does not allow her to see everything clearly, especially when it comes to writing; she explains. She has to give a report to her nearby health facility so that needed drugs can be made available on time.

Josephine is a 43-year-old lady who lives on Ntunda hill in Ntunda ADP, northeast of Burundi. She is committed to fighting against malaria in her community.

‘’No child has died so far because of malaria on my hill, since we started treating children from home,’’ Josephine explains joyfully.

According to the WHO, more than 6 million people, including 2 million children, in Burundi suffered malaria from January to August 2016 alone.

More than 2500 of the affected people have already died.

Since World Vision became aware of the outbreak, the organisation scaled up its integrated community case management approach, focusing mainly on malaria management. This approach consists of treating the 3 main killers of under-five children in Burundi, namely malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.

Josephine is proud of being able to diagnosis and treat malaria that affects children in her community.

“We had a similar outbreak of the disease 15 years ago and many people perished, especially children,” she still remembers.

Asked if she had taken courses in medication before the World Vision project, her answer is no; World Vision trained and equipped 108 community health workers, including herself, throughout the whole commune of Gitaramuka to help them stop the Burundi malaria trend.

Josephine is always ready to help out whenever a malaria case arises on her hill, she explains. The donated metal box holds a complete toolkit including drugs, gloves, needles, solar torch, para checks, report forms, and many items enabling her to serve better, she continues.

Josephine and her bicycle.

On top of the toolkit, World Vision supported her with a bicycle. A bicycle helps her move around in the community to follow up on the health status of children she has treated. If their status does not improve, she refers them to a health facility, she says. A bicycle is also used to transport children if she finds that there is a need for the sick child to reach health facilities quickly. She appreciates World Vision’s support with all this. What caused many deaths in the past was the long time mothers had to travel to reach nearby health facilities. For many of them, this involved walking for hours and hours while the child’s health status worsened.

During the current malaria outbreak, community health workers are receiving more children than ever before. Sometimes their metal boxes run short of drugs because of the many children in need.

Josephine is asking for more support from the Government and Donors to help ensure that other communities do not experience what happened in the past when community health workers had not started working.

This story was featured on wvi.org