Getting essential medicines to the community, by bicycle

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Eder Ismail is a Project Officer for Malaria Consortium’s community-based child health programme in the Inhambane province of Mozambique. Malaria Consortium has been training and supporting community health workers in the province of Inhambane since 2009 with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency and the Planet Wheeler Foundation. The project aims to bring life-saving health care to rural communities living long distances from health centres. Community health workers have been equipped with bicycles, enabling them to travel to health centres more regularly, to replenish essential medicines stock and hold meetings with their supervisors.

Bernardo Dongo is a community health worker, trained in 2010 by the Ministry of Health with Malaria Consortium’s support. Since Bernardo was trained in integrated community case management of common childhood illnesses, he has been working in his catchment area to offer front-line health services. He holds regular community meetings to educate families about disease prevention and health practices, and he diagnoses and treats children under five years of age who present with mild forms of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea.

Each month, Bernardo, who is 52 years old, leaves his home behind and rides for 18km on his bicycle to reach the health center in Inhassoro.

Two hours later, Bernardo reaches the health centre. There, he meets his supervisor to review his monthly activity report and visits the pharmacy to collect the monthly essential medicines kit that he will take back to his community in Vuca, a coastal area in Mozambique’s Inhassoro district.

He goes back in the late afternoon at low tide, using a coastal shortcut that saves 1 hour off his journey and allows him to reach his community by early evening. When he arrives, Bernardo opens the medicine kit in the presence of the community leader. He can now resume his normal activities, consisting of both health promotion and treatment for uncomplicated diseases. “There are about 700 people in my community, and on average I see about 160 patients per month”.