By Dickens Wasonga
Amref Health Africa has called on the national government and the devolved units to have legislation to anchor into law the activities of the community health workers.
Amref Health Africa project manager for Health Systems Advocacy and Partnerships Dorcas Indalo said the CHWs were playing a critical role in the delivery of health services to the people at the grassroots and needs to have a scheme of service anchored in law and paid salaries to boost currents government effort of achieving universal health coverage.
The programs manager said the current approach where community health workers were viewed as volunteers was not sustainable adding that even though some counties had put CHWs on monthly stipends, a lot still needs to be done and proposed that all the counties come up with community health workers bills to legal recognize their contribution in ensuring access to health care at the lowest levels of the communities.
She said Amref had managed to reach over 30,000 people in nine counties where it has been supporting HIV prevention campaigns, care and treatment through the 21,099 CHWs they have enrolled. ‘’ We use the workers to help us identify, diagnose and treat vulnerable people in the communities where we work, especially women and children,’’ she said.
She disclosed that Amref has been supporting provision of primary health care, including outreach services and mobile clinics and has since provided 110,000 women with modern family planning methods while additional 95,000 mothers helped to access the services of skilled birth attendants during child birth thus saving many lives through safe deliveries.
She noted that only Turkana county had passed a law on the CHWs but others like Kisumu, Homa Bay, Siaya and Vihiga were at various stages of passing the bill. Most of these counties although have recognized the crucial roles played by the CHWs in the delivery of health services, the stipend they receives was low ranging from sh 2000 to 2500.
She was speaking in Ugunja in Siaya county Yesterday during a stakeholder’s forum on teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drugs abuse and access to health services in the sub county where the county health CEC Dorothy Okwiri disclosed that her department was underfunded at 30% of the budget even though the disease burden was high.
The CEC said that although 63% of mothers were now delivering in hospitals, thanks to Amref’s reproductive health campaigns in the four sub counties in Siaya, teenage pregnancies was still high at 17% . ‘’ We have held several health stakeholders meetings in the county with other government agencies to lay framework to tackle the issue of teenage pregnancies which is a societal problem ‘’ she said.
The CEC noted that communicable diseases like malaria contribute the highest hospital admissions cases in the area with malaria cases being at 30%.
To help address the communicable disease burden in the county, the department was using CHWs at the community levels to boost access to health care provision adding and already the county has drafted county health services bill which was under review by the county health management team before being presented to cabinet and the assembly for adoption.
To reach amplify youth voices Amref has supported the establishment of a youth parliament in Ugunja as platform that seeks to mobilize participation of young people to actively engage on matters that affect communities they live in.