Community health volunteers use cellphones to report serious malaria cases to better-equipped clinics and hospitals.
Community health volunteers use cellphones to report serious malaria cases to better-equipped clinics and hospitals.
Miriam Opechi, a community health volunteer in Emusala village, carries out a malaria test on a resident.
Miriam Opechi, a community health volunteer in Emusala village, carries out a malaria test on a resident.
DIAGNOSIS: Nancy Mukungu, a community health volunteer in Emusala village, in Western Kenya’s Kakamega County, carries out a malaria test on a woman sick with a fever. Pictures: Isaiah Esipisu/Thomson Reuters Foundation
DIAGNOSIS: Nancy Mukungu, a community health volunteer in Emusala village, in Western Kenya’s Kakamega County, carries out a malaria test on a woman sick with a fever. Pictures: Isaiah Esipisu/Thomson Reuters Foundation
Refresher questions from trainers kept the volunteers on their toes, and ongoing training helped to keep their skills sharp, said Imbali. Experts from county health departments visit frequently to monitor the programme.

Each volunteer receives a monthly motivational stipend of 2000 Kenyan shillings (R255).

“Apart from the stipend, I have learnt so many things in terms of health interventions which are not just important for my immediate family but also to the community where I live,” said Miriam Opechi, a community health volunteer.

“I feel very happy whenever a patient gets well after my intervention. It gives me complete satisfaction, and makes me feel a valuable member of the society, commanding a lot of respect from the villagers,” she said.

Imbali said the programme made it possible for residents of rural areas to get access to medicines - even on weekends and holidays when public health facilities were usually closed.

Emisiko, Kakamega County’s health official, said the volunteers’ efforts reduced crowding at health facilities, making it easier for health providers to attend to other important ailments.

But the work of community health volunteers is not always limited to malaria.

Simon Ondeyo from Emusala, said community health volunteers had treated his children for malaria a number of times.

But Ondeyo is a TB patient who had given up on an arduous treatment regimen until community health volunteers began visiting him daily to ensure that he took his drugs.

Today he feels fully recovered - though he is still completing his course of treatment. “Without the volunteers, I do not know if I would be alive today,” he said. - Thomson Reuters Foundation