Community Health Volunteer saving lives against Cholera

A Community Health Volunteer (CHV) in Kibera slums of Kenya’s capital – Nairobi has taken it upon herself to teach residents on cholera prevention measures.

40 year-old Mary Najoki, who lives in Soweto East Health Unit has been a CHV for 18 years and is responsible for keeping track on health status of 100 households in her community unit.
What prompted Mary to become a CHV was the health condition she has witnessed in Kibra, the biggest slum in Africa and the third largest in the world with a population of about 2.5 million dwellers.
Mary who has lived in Kibera for more than 20 years blames poor drainage, poor hand washing habits, lack of adequate safe and clean water and poor hygiene practices to making the residents more susceptible to water borne diseases.
Due to poverty and poor living conditions, water and sanitation are scarce and toilet facilities cost Ksh 5 forcing many residents to defecate in plastic bags and disposing on the road sides, ditches, and trenches or as sometimes they toss the waste through the air commonly known as ‘flying toilets’. 
As a result of water scarcity, slum dwellers are forced to use the polluted and contaminated water point for basic needs resulting to spread of water borne diseases. She tells us how she monitors cholera and its initial signs courtesy of a training she received that works well up to date.
“In June 2017,I studied signs and symptoms of cholera through a platform in my phone, it was an easy and unique training because I was used to face to face training which was time consuming and sometimes I forgot some details I learnt.” says Mary. 
She was trained through Amref Health Africa’s Leap in partnership with Unilever East Arica. 
Leap which is an integrated mobile platform uses regular updates to train health workers on a range of topics. The message is delivered through text and audio messages through mobile phones.
VIDEO: Leap, the mHealth platform
Mary works tirelessly in raising awareness on (Cholera) symptoms, how its spread, and how to prevent it. 
She also actively attends ‘chamas’ and public gathering to disseminate health education and raise awareness about the deadly disease.
“I go door to door informing and educating people from my community on how to control, prevent and respond to cholera. Every time I emphasize on the need for washing hands with soap before meals and after visiting the toilet,” says the CHV.  
She gives a case study of a neighbor she lost through the disease including close family friends in the 90s.
“I took the urge to learn much of preventive measure after I lost some neighbors and close friends that year, it was really a bad experience. I saw a lot of people die. My neighbor started to diarrhea after she consumed some fish and later she was told she had cholera. After three hours she was rushed to the hospital and died. Many people around my neighborhood had the disease, it was devastating.” said Mary.
She thanked Amref Health Africa for the support and training on health matters which she says has saved hundreds of lives in her (slum) community.
Written by Maureen Cherongis

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