By Linneah Lijodi
Community Health volunteers were formally introduced to the informal settlements in 2016 and have been of great help ever since. From checking up on households to referring the sick to treatment, these men and women are seen as heroes in the community and are often referred to as “daktari” (doctor).
Being a CHV has its honors as well as challenges. Community Health Volunteers will give blood and sweat to ensure that their households are well and if not they can go as far as taking their own money to help get the sick to the hospital.
In the informal settlement where there are a lot of sick and unbothered people, it falls upon the CHV to create awareness on nutrition and diseases such as cholera, malnutrition in children, chronic diseases and reproductive health in the community. This requires the courage and willingness to serve the people of their community. At night, even when the safety of women is endangered, they will work late into the night to help their households as much as they can.
CHVs have continued to be at the frontline in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, with the communities depending solely on the CHVs to create awareness. With the help of organizations such as AMREF and Red Cross, CHVs have received training and information not only on the pandemic but also on other chronic diseases such as cholera, and on reproductive health and mother-child care. This has immensely helped people in the informal settlements.
CHVs distributed equipment from the Ministry of Health to various hand washing points in the settlements. When donations were made, CHVs were tasked with the responsibly of identifying the neediest households and distributing the items.
Despite risking their lives to protect others, the government has fallen short in according them the support they require. In the wake of the pandemic, some volunteers were unable to sustain their families, with some even getting locked out of their houses owing to rent arrears. These great men and women have been volunteering for years and it is high time the government came up with a payment plan for them. The government seems to be exploiting them for their willingness to help improve their communities and this should cease.