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Latest News Communities mobilise to tackle the global health worker shortage

Communities mobilise to tackle the global health worker shortage

28 January 2013

Malaria Consortium is working with Governments and communities in Uganda to improve access to basic health care

The road connecting Mbale town to the villages on top of the hill in Wanale sub-county is steep and has been eroded by water and mud streams that flow down to the valley. Looking down from the top, the beauty of the valley is breath-taking and contrasts sharply with the realities of life here. More than 15,000 people live in this remote region of Eastern Uganda many in poverty and they have only one local health facility, up to 18km walk away.

The difficulty in accessing basic health services in remote areas of sub-Saharan Africa, like Wanale, is not uncommon. The global health worker shortage and lack of health facilities in rural areas remains one of the major reasons that children die from preventable and treatable illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.

Fatinah’s story

In Wanale sub-county, community members like Fatinah Khainza, a mother of five, are helping to change that.

Working with the Ugandan Government and local health services, Malaria Consortium is training community members like Fatinah to be village health volunteers, enabling her to give life-saving advice and refer children in need of medical attention to the local health facility. .

Fatinah and other local village health team members (VHTs) organise community meetings and visit homes to talk to local people about disease prevention and sanitation. With her training, Fatinah can advise her neighbours how and where to build their latrines to avoid water contamination for example.

“We teach community members here in the village how to keep their homes clean” explains Fatinah.

Providing expectant mothers with information about the complications that can occur during home birth has also resulted in an increase in the number of women giving birth at the health facility in Wanale, Fatinah adds, in spite of the distance.

The VHTs members tell the community about upcoming immunisation campaigns and mosquito net distributions. John Khisa, a VHT supervisor who coordinates and supports VHTs in Wanale, says that it is working well: “Mothers are now willing to take their children for immunisation”.

As well as his VHT duties, Augustine, another volunteer in Wanale, also acts as an ambulance driver. Driving a motorbike with a sidecar containing a stretcher, Augustine picks patients up and drives them the 18km to the nearest facility, saving critical time for patients in need of emergency medical care.

Building on Augustine's work, the Mbale VHTs are now helping to pilot an extension to this system to help cope with the numbers of referred patients in need of transport to the clinic. VHTs will be able to give critically ill patients vouchers for motorcycle-taxis which they can then redeem at the health facility.

As part of this two-year Malaria Consortium project, funded by Comic Relief, a total of 96 VHTs, like Fatinah and Augustine, have been selected by the community in Wanale sub-county and are working to bring health care much closer to home for thousands of local residents.

To see photos from Wanale, click here.

To support this life-saving project, click here.


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