Training CHWs to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Ann is a Community Health Worker in Emali, Kenya (Photo: Joost Bastmeijer/Amref Health Africa).

Why CHWs?

In rural Africa, Community Health Workers (CHWs) play an important role in bringing quality health services closer to communities with limited resources. Ann is a CHW in Emali, Kenya: “My job is to know the health problems in my community. I monitor patients, give informational talks, and refer sick people to the clinic.”

We’ve featured Ann on Field Stories before – but since the arrival of COVID-19 her job has changed with new challenges. “When Coronavirus arrived, there was little information about the virus available,” Ann tells us. Without knowing about the virus, its symptoms, and how to treat it, how could Ann and her fellow CHWs help their community?

New Virus, New Challenges

Amref has been training Ann since 2018 and moved quickly to equip Ann with the knowledge she needed to protect her community from COVID-19. Ann says, “Amref provided us with ten hours of training on the new virus and its symptoms. After the training, we could then recognize the symptoms and refer people with symptoms to the clinic for care, something we did not know to do when the pandemic started.”

Ann says that Amref’s training has helped her do her job as a CHW more effectively: “Amref came to Emali and assisted us as a community. They helped us with training which increased the number of people we could help. With that knowledge I could better map out what is going on in my community.”

With the training she received from Amref, she could more easily educate her neighbors on why going to the health facility is so more important – even during a pandemic: “I was also able to advertise the clinic to more people: I explained why it is important to receive good quality health care from professionals. Amref has also upgraded the clinic, so that there are now more nurses. There is also more medicines and better technology. This has had a major impact on the community, as people are happy that they can now receive good care at the clinic.”

Ann with Jacinta, a woman who recently gave birth at a health facility after Ann educated her on the importance of delivering under the care of a trained health worker.(Photo: Joost Bastmeijer/Amref Health Africa)

Using Innovative Technology to Better Equip CHWs

LEAP is a mobile phone platform that Amref created to train CHWs, faster and more effectively on their own mobile phones. We used LEAP to widely distribute information on COVID-19, how to prevent it, and how to treat it. LEAP can also be used by CHWs to store data and communicate with other CHWs. Ann says that LEAP has a played a vital role in helping her prevent the spread of COVID-1 9 in her community: “Thanks to Amref, we received a new part on the LEAP app that allowed us to conduct research in the field on COVID-19. We went door-to-door to collect data on how many people had it in the community. That data then went to the nurses at the clinic. With this, we were able to monitor a lot of people and report easily – making it much easier to control the spread of the virus.

The LEAP app helped us reassure people in the community, because we could tell what the virus was and how to prevent it. It was great that everyone could get through that hard period with both science and technology. That was useful for the community.”

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