The Samburu are a nomadic community well known for their love of livestock. Cultural limitations, ignorance, lack of role models and lack of education have all play a part in the poor water and sanitation practices in Samburu County, Kenya.
Only 20% of the population in Samburu County practice facial hygiene and wash their hands during the critical times.
The poor hygiene practices have propelled the spread of Trachoma (TT), a chronic eye condition caused by Chlamydia Trachomatis bacterium. The bacterium produces a component that roughens the inner surface of the eyelids, causing eye lashes to turn inwards and rub onto the eyeballs. The disease is spread through contact with eye discharge from an infected person.
With this in mind, Amref Health Africa, in partnership with Sight-Savers through the Kenya Elimination of Trachoma Programme, embarked on training Community Health Workers (CHWs) on Trachoma through Leap, the mHealth platform.
Charles Leparsaiya, a 65-year-old Community Health Volunteer (CHV) in Barsaloi Community Unit (CU), Samburu County, Kenya, is one of the 336 CHVs trained on Trachoma through the mobile solution. “I loved all topics I covered. But, one topic that I have actively applied in my village is the one on Trachoma,” Charles states.
Charles’ best friend and neighbour had suffered from Trachoma for seven years. At the time, they thought that the condition was due to old age. In fact, Charles was patiently, and sadly, waiting for his eyes to also go bad. “When I learnt that the condition was treatable, I was shocked but relieved,” he adds.
Charles admits that the realisation that the condition was preventable was heartbreaking, albeit, revealing. “I started thinking about the pain my friend had already gone through. I used to call young children to pluck his eye lashes every morning, in an attempt to ease his pain. To think that he did not have to go through this as Trachoma is preventable, makes me sad,” Charles explains.
Determined to help his friend, Charles convinced the old man to go for an eye camp that was taking place at Barsaloi. He was examined and qualified for surgery, and although he was scared, he went through with it. “After the surgery, he was scared because his eye had been covered and he could not see. But I convinced him that it was covered to keep away flies,” he states. “The very next day, the doctors removed the eye patch and he was very happy that his sight had been restored. In fact, we realised he could see much better compared to all of us,” says Charles, letting out a chuckle.
The success of his friend’s surgery motivated Charles to actively visit his households to identify people suffering from Trachoma, and those in need of eye drops and eye glasses, and refer them accordingly.
The grandfather of five, Charles is grateful for the training he received on Trachoma. Through CHVs such as Charles, the region has seen an increase in the number of Trachoma referrals, referred patients who tested positive for Trachoma, and most importantly, the number of those who qualified for surgery has also gone up. Charles is quick to point out that CHVs also have to follow up. “I advised my friend and his family on the importance of hygiene. I told them they have to wash their faces every morning with clean water, to keep the compound clean and to wash their hands during the critical times,” he adds.
Despite his age, Charles confirms that learning through Leap was easy. “We received lessons on our mobile phones. We read and even did exams from our phones! The group chat was also very helpful for clarification purposes,” Charles concludes.
Amref Health Africa, in partnership with Sight-Savers through the Kenya Elimination of Trachoma Programme, has trained 336 CHWs on Trachoma through Leap, the mHealth platform. Leap, an innovation by Amref Health Africa, allows partners to train CHWs on various health topics in an easy, efficient and effective way. Through strengthened support, peer collaboration and continuous learning, Leap empowers CHVs with knowledge on health issues affecting their communities through their mobile phones. This allows them to learn, interact with each other (and with their supervisors) as well as be examined on topics covered, all through their mobile phones. Leap has been successfully implemented across rural, urban and nomadic regions in Kenya.
Visit the Leap, the mHealth platform to learn more about the Leap mobile solution
Story by: Michelle Dibo – Communications, Amref Health Africa