As an organisation working closely with and building capacity of community health workers, Malaria Consortium is pleased to acknowledge the joint statement by UNICEF, WHO, IFRC, Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA) and UNHCR on scaling up the community based health workforce in emergency situations.
This report looks at many elements relating to community health workers including, preparing for and responding to emergencies, promoting scale-up of community health care and advocating to government for continuing support.
According to the statement, the community based health workforce is ideally placed to identify and work with those who are hardest to reach and most vulnerable in a time of emergency. Targeting primary health care to these populations is a highly cost effective method of preparedness for an emergency situation. By reducing the underlying vulnerability of these populations through the provision of primary health care and contributing to prevention and preparedness, the community based health workforce is strengthening the health system to deal more readily with difficult circumstances. According to the statement, “strong health systems are better able to absorb the impact of emergencies.”
It is important to routinely recognise the contributions of the community based health workforce and focus on important career elements that are often overlooked. Training, supervision, motivation and other such issues are commonly not taken into account even though they are key motivating factors and crucial for the scaling up of the workforce’s role in emergencies.
Malaria Consortium is already engaged in research into scaling up community based health workers’ role in critical primary health care provision in non-emergency situations. The inSCALE project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is specifically focused on demonstrating that coverage, quality and impact of government-led integrated community case management programmes can be extended once innovative solutions are found to increase motivation and retention of community health workers.
“This joint statement has three important purposes; ie. to draw attention to the vital role played by the community-based health workforce, to promote the scale-up of the community-based health workforce and to encourage governments and supporting partners to reinforce the community-based health workforce,” Says Karin Källander, inSCALE coordinator.
“These three purposes are also critical for the sustainability of other programs where community health workers (CHWs) are responsible for delivering health care to under-served communities, as part of national primary health care strategies. Well trained, motivated and supported CHWs can provide life-saving treatment to sick children in rural and poor communities where access to health care is lacking. It is high time that the potential of this workforce is recognised so that children do not have to die from simple infections like diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria.”