I went to see one of our integrated COVID projects, which essentially means COVID vaccines are offered, but while we have people here, they can also get tested for common conditions like malaria or NCDs like diabetes, get treatments and vaccines for other diseases like MMR, mothers can get pre/post-natal care, and everyone can get family planning products. The idea is, since everything is so far away, let’s make the best use of a large group of people in one place and save them a long, costly trip to the clinic.
The weekend before I arrived, they helped over 1,500 people, extending their evening hours to 7 p.m. to accommodate people with agricultural jobs. The day we were there, there were a lot of women seeking post-natal care and malaria treatment for themselves or their children. Using the rapid test, staff can know after 15 minutes if it’s positive and have the medicines ready for disbursement. Margaret, the Village Health Team member, said that so far that day, 32 of the 132 tests given were positive. In this area, it’s common for 35 – 50% of the population to get malaria.
For the COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination campaigns typically last for 14 days. With help from religious and cultural leaders, heads of state, and other community pillars, staff rallied the community to get their COVID vaccinations and early childhood vaccines for babies, giving 831,000 doses during their last 14-day campaign and 1 million overall.
To help dispel myths and end fears, a Drama Team was implemented, and it’s exactly what you think it is. VHT members essentially put on a comedic play that creatively shares the messages about the importance of putting your care first, safe sanitation practices, and what NOT to do with masks and medicines.
An important thing that happens at this event is HIV testing. If people test positive, they can treat them right away, but if it’s negative, they are still informed on safe sexual practices. The testing is open to all, which is incredibly comforting for teenagers and young adults who may be afraid to seek care or ask questions.
With music and an emcee providing entertainment from start to finish, staff have definitely mastered how to draw people to the area. People show up for the fun, and some leave knowing their symptoms weren’t just something to sleep off.