Mon, 28 Sep 2020

LUSAKA, July 3 (Xinhua) -- Zambia, like many developing countries, faces critical human resources for health shortages amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving much of the rural and remote populations with inadequate access to health care services.

To counter these shortages, a number of non-government entities have trained informal workers as community health volunteers. These volunteers who in Zambia are known as Community Health Workers (CHWs) are based in the community and come from the community they serve.

Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, CHWs have and continue to lead the fight against the pandemic in Zambia's slums and remote and rural areas.

"We have been sensitizing people about COVID-19 and to take measures to prevent it from spreading further. Many people in the compound are trying their best to adhere to preventive guidelines and measures and have adopted healthy habits that prevent the spread of the pandemic as well as other contagious diseases," explained Conceptor Luwaile, a community health volunteer-based in Kuku compound, a slum in Zambia's capital Lusaka.

Luwaile adds that her team has managed to reach almost every household in her community with messages of prevention and other COVID-19 related responses adding that the response from the community has been impressive.

She was however quick to mention that social distancing remains the biggest challenge as Kuku compound, just like other slums around Lusaka is a densely populated area but remained optimistic that the pandemic would be contained.

A visit to Zambia compound, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Kapiri Mposhi district, central Zambia revealed that CHWs operating in the area have also been busy with education and sensitization programs around COVID-19 including door-to-door sensitization and education activities.

"The main issues being emphasized are frequent hand washing, avoiding handshakes and observing social distancing Members of the community are being encouraged to take particular precaution while travelling and to wear face masks. If one develops a fever, cough, or has difficulties breathing, they are encouraged to seek medical care early," said Emmanuel Daka, one of the CHWs based in Zambia Compound.

Without CHWs, access to health care services would remain a pipe dream, if not a nightmare for many individuals and families in Zambia's low-income settings, according to Catherine Ngulube, a veteran community health volunteer.

"These volunteers are knowledgeable about local needs and have a greater understanding of the communities they serve," explained Ngulube who has worked as a volunteer for the past 20 years in both rural and urban communities of the central province of Zambia.

She further pointed out that CHWs have been instrumental in keeping the spread of infections and disease in slums and rural areas and remote areas and continue to help to make health care delivery quicker and less stressful for the indigent.

And World Vision, an International non-governmental organisation notes in a report that CHWs play a critical role in providing a local context for practical health solutions. They are the first and often the only link to health care for millions of people and are relatively inexpensive to train and support, and are capable of providing many life-saving interventions.

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