C*mmunity health workers, ever unsung national heroes

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 00:00 | By
Fred Misachi, a Community Health Worker at Ondiek area in Kisumu counsels Khadija Njeri, a resident. Photo/PD/Viola Kosome

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trusted saviours of most patients in communities.

They are also keen to alert public health authorities of emerging outbreak of illnesses, for instance, water-borne diseases like cholera. 

And as authorities continue with efforts to incorporate them into healthcare services, CHWs are slowly turning into a blessing for Kisumu residents.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, CHWs have been playing a vital role in helping to attend patients suffering other diseases that had been neglect, as focus shifted to the fight against coronavirus.

With the county keen on ensuring that more people get vaccinated against Covid, CHWs are the unseen force putting their lives on the line to sensitise people on the need to get the vaccine.

People Daily caught up with Fred Misachi, a CHW serving Ondiek area at the weekend, when he had just completed a visit to a house of an ailing, elderly man.

That was the fifth house he had visited for a follow-up on their conditions. 

Misachi says serving the community gives him a sense of purpose and satisfaction. He also believes that CHWs could be the key that could help unlock barriers to health provision.

For the past one month, the father of one said he has helped 70 people with various needs, including antenatal care referrals, sick children and even the elderly.

Although he does not treat patients, he is among the tens of CHWs that are playing a critical role in helping manage patients, assisting with antenatal referrals as well as administering first aids.

Vulnerable patients

He vividly recalls an incident in which he rescued an expectant mother who could not reach a hospital in time due to curfew.

“The woman was about to deliver  but the family could not take her to hospital. I intervened and were rushed her to Kisumu County Hospital where she  delivered successfully,” he says.

Over the last few months, CHWs have been the unpraised medical warriors who have been helping vulnerable patients seek healthcare during curfew time. They are also the unseen force in the fight to reduce Covid-19 infections, and have been risking their lives to make door-to-door visits to sensitise the public on the need to embrace the vaccine. 

Misachi said it feels good to be a frontline worker, noting that after saving lives gives he feels at peace.

“Although there’s so much work at times, I do not regret being a CHW because the lives I save is worth the sacrifice,” he said.

His main fear, however, is the constant stigma that some of them face in communities over fears that they could be interacting with Covid-19 patients.

In March last year when Covid-19 struck, he said he faced stigma as most people did not want to associate with him, claiming he might be a super spreader of the disease.

“I felt bad as I thought I was going to help but unfortunately people did not want to associate with me with others locking themselves inside the house whenever they saw me,” he said.

But he is not alone; another CHW in Nyando who sought anonymity narrated how she has been struggling to convince some patients to abandon their cultural practices to go to hospitals.

She claims there are times she has been compelled to inform police officers and health officials to take action on such patients.

“Our role is always to identify health risks too. Unfortunately, there are people who follow practices that discourage them from going to health facilities,” she says.

When Violet Muchi, 65, got her Covid-19 vaccine in March, she did not know that the jab would come with side effects that left her bed ridden for four days.

She told us that she was rescued by Misachi. “I was placed on oxygen for the entire period under home-based care since all hospitals were full with Covid-19 patients. It was Misachi who took care of me together with the help of my children, who are also medics until I recovered, “she said.

Kisumu Director of Health Dr Fred Oluoch said there are about 3,000 CHWs who work tirelessly to offer health care services.

He said the CHWs have been of great help, especially during the Covid-19 period, as they visit households to ascertain whether residents are observing Ministry of Health protocols and guidelines.

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