The Community Health Worker project was made possible by the financing of UNICEF. The objective of the project is to contribute to the reduction in maternal, child and infant mortality rate, and the idea is to train and to manage Community Health Workers, selected on the community level, as a permanent force, which work as a go- between, connecting the people in the communities with the public health institutions, so that they improve the level of access to basic health services and adhere to 16 Essential Family Practices.
The Project is operating in Oio Administrative region, the second largest and populous administrative region in Guinea-Bissau, and has two Sanitary Regions: Oio Sanitary Region and Farím Sanitary Region.
Geographically Oio is located in the north of the country, bordering Biombo, Bafatá and Cacheu Regions, the land border with Senegal Quinará regions and autonomic sector of Bissau in the South.
The region has a surface of 5.403 km2, 235.242 inhabitants (INE/INASA), and is dominated by Balanta, Mansonca, Mandingas and Fulas ethnic groups. Oio is divided into 5 administrative sectors: Bissora, Farím, Mansõa, Mansabá and Nhacra.
The daily work of the Community Health Worker consists of door to door visits and mobilization of the people for them to take decisions for the sake of their health. The Community Health Workers facilitate the communication between health centers and the community.
1. Promoting the growth and development of children
Breastfeeding is one of the main pillars which contribute to the child development; therefore Community Health Workers were sensitizing mothers and entire families to practice breastfeeding at least 6 months after the birth of the baby. Besides, Health Workers were making awareness among the mothers to give their babies vitamin A during the first 45 days after the birth and also to take complementary food from the 6th till the 24th month. The Health Workers were also encouraging mothers to regularly weight the children until the 5th year.
2. Prevention of diseases
One of the project’s low cost activities is community mobilization campaign through which the Project Unit Leader together with the women’s clubs organized awareness sessions through meetings. In those meetings the following topics have been discussed: Hygiene and sanitation, treatment of water for drinking, healthy nutrition, correct use of mosquito nets, risk management of pregnant women and new born babies, HIV prevention, vaccination of the children under five and pregnant women.
During sensitization campaign music equipment was used to entertain the community and thus to motivate the people to participate in the activity for obtaining knowledge about their health. Moreover, quiz shows and drama plays were organized, thus alleviating the transmission of the message to the population.
3. Home based care visit
The Community Health Workers were carrying out household visits, as agreed with the regional health office and ADPP coordination team. The objective of the visits was to encourage the people to use the 16 Essential Family Practices (EFP) in their day-to-day life. During the family visits, the Health Workers were discussing with the people their daily practices related to health. E.g., if the family has a breastfeeding mother, the indicators related to the promotion of the child development and mother’s health were being discussed. Besides, the Health Workers were checking if mothers have hospital cards for their babies and also if the cards are showing satisfactory baby growth results. In general, Health Workers were checking up if families are using Essential Family Practices in their daily life. During the visit Health Agents were taking the notes and afterwards transferring information in the monthly report form.
4. Seeking health services from health centres
The Community Health Workers were mobilizing mothers to vaccinate their children. They organized all pregnant women and mothers with children under 5 to participate in vaccination campaign.
The Health Workers were also engaging families to seek health service from health centres. At the household level, they were identifying the signs of risks in the families, giving basic treatment and referring people to the health centres, as a main place to solve their health problems. During the period, the Health Workers were also sensitizing families about mother-to-child disease transmission.