Community Health Workers (CHWs) like Margaret have become the first line of defense in the fight against COVID-19. Living in Kibera, Africa’s most densely populated urban informal settlement, every day, her role is crucial as she provides lifesaving interventions to protect her community from the virus.
Even as the Kenyan Government struggles to control the spread of COVID-19, CHWs like Margaret are playing an important role in reducing transmission at the community level through the promotion of preventive measures, saving lives.
For 20 years serving as a CHW, Margaret has previously taken lead in the fight against Cholera, HIV/AIDS, and TB among other diseases and now, COVID-19. “This is the first time we are dealing with a highly contagious disease. It is a very sensitive disease and we are taking it very seriously,” she says.
According to Margaret, since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Kenya, the majority of Kibera residents have fueled rumors, mistrust, fear, and panic among themselves. However, the provision of information about the virus by CHWs helps reduce fear and anxiety among families.
“As trusted members of the community, our relationship with the community is very strong and they listen to what we tell them. My role is to reassure them and give them the right information,” she affirms.
Margaret is among 53,000 CHWs in Kenya trained by Amref Health Africa using Leap, a mobile health platform developed by Amref. Through the app, health workers including CHWs are being trained to identify signs and symptoms and refer suspected COVID-19 cases as well as maintain safety standards at points of entry or high-risk areas to prevent possible transmission.
Margaret is using the knowledge she has gained from Leap to educate her community using easier to understand terms or in the local language to help everyone understand.
“The information I get from Leap is important because it is connected to the Ministry of Health guidelines. I teach my community to wash their hands regularly, avoid congested areas and handshakes to prevent spreading or contracting COVID-19,” she explains. “Social distancing remains a big challenge in the slum,” she adds.