Community Health Workers deserve more

Community health workers in Muhanga explain their operations to the Rwandan and Dutch MPs. File.

Community Health Workers (CHW) have played a key role in improving the health outlook and wellbeing of the population.

Apart from substituting professional health officers, they are also the first line of defence. They act as early warning conduits for any health dangers so that the central government put in place measures to mitigate them.

They are responsible for the reduction in child mortality rates, especially for children under five years of age. The numbers of mothers who give birth in health centres has gone up considerably and preventable diseases, usually linked to poor hygiene, have dropped.

CHWs are the unseen and unsung heroes deep inside rural Rwanda and deserve more recognition than they currently have.  Their importance is unequalled but they should not be a glove-that-fits-all.

This is something the Ministry of Health has finally realized. This weekend, most villages will be electing additional health workers, adding a fourth worker in the village since in some places the regulatory three CHWs are being over worked.

But in urban areas, grassroots health workers have their work cut out for them and it is time the health stakeholders design new roles for them. In any case, they are dealing with more knowledgeable sections of society.

But despite their voluntary work, CHWs need motivation, especially monetary gratification. There have been many arguments that people should not reach retirement age before benefitting for their insurance policies.

That state of affairs could be reversed if some of the health insurance money could be diverted towards giving an annual bonus to CHWs for they deserve it for the work they are doing.



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