PONT’s Community Health team train and co-ordinate Community Health Workers – volunteers who educate and empower their neighbours to reduce illnesses and are the first to respond to any health emergency.
Since 2005 we’ve recruited over 1200 Community Health volunteers, including over 400 Traditional Birth Referral Attendants. They’re making a huge difference in the villages they serve.
Diseases such as cholera, malaria and pneumonia are common in the rural villages of Mbale region. As in many poor areas, infant mortality and maternal mortality rates are high. There is a shortage of medical staff and in remote areas, health centres can be difficult to reach.
Many people are not aware of basic health, nutritional and sanitation information that could save lives. Others are reluctant to visit health centres, preferring traditional remedies.
What we do
We train and equip local people, chosen by their communities, to be qualified volunteer health workers.
These volunteers already have other occupations such as teachers, pastors or farmers, and they agree to provide health care to their village in their spare time. Training with local experts and visitors from Wales empowers them to engage and educate their community on issues such as sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, immunisation, family planning and early detection of serious illnesses.
“They call me Musawo”
Watch: Haifa is a Community Health Worker – she tells us how her training has helped mothers in her village.
Those that complete further training also do health activities such as immunisations, nutrition activities (like weighing children) and diagnosing and treating common illnesses. A small number are even further educated to become ‘Trainers of trainers’ and teach their peers. Meanwhile others specialise in helping mums and newborn babies.
Our Trained Birth Referral Attendants identify women from their villages who are expecting a baby, and encourage them to go for check-ups at a health centre. They’ll go with them if needed – and then they’ll hopefully be there for the birth to help them deliver, either at home or at the health centre. If anything happens, they can call for emergency transport.
Access to healthcare
Our health workers become known as the person to go to with a health issue or questions about pregnancy. They also reach out to people who might need help. They encourage as well as educate and help people overcome fears and stigmas. Because of this they increase the number of people accessing healthcare
Since 2014 they’ve been linked in to PONT’s ambulance network of motorbikes and stretchers. They’re trained to give emergency first aid and to decide whether to call for emergency transport. Their training teaches them to make appropriate referrals to health centres or the hospital.
Our volunteers help prevent life-threatening diseases by educating their neighbours. They increase the number of people in rural communities who access healthcare and maternity care at health centres. They save lives when people are ill or injured because they’re able to refer them to the place where they’ll get the most suitable help as quickly as possible. We saw this during a cholera epidemicin 2016.
The scheme also changes the lives of the men and women who volunteer. Empowered by their training and experience as health workers, some have gone on to be leaders of their communities. Inspired by working together, some have set up savings and lending schemes.
It starts with the people. Volunteers are part of the community – neighbours, but knowledgeable.
They’re trained to the level of professionals. But because right from the start we’ve worked with the local District Health Office and trained health centre and hospital staff to recognise referrals from our volunteers they are supporting not replacing health staff.
Motorbike ambulance drivers trained and supported by PONT are all integrated into the system.
The network is monitored and supported by Richard and Martin at Mbale CAP and by the 8 local NGOs they work with. Community Health Workers who are able to receive update training feel part of a special team – one that works.