Knocking on Doors, Saving lives

Community Health Volunteer prepares to do a malaria test on a young boy in Kenya

Credit: Maureen Cherongis

            Beatrice prepares to do a malaria test on Evelyne`s son

 

She walks from house to house visiting families in Kenya in order to educate members on malaria prevention and, at the same time, identify people with malaria symptoms and refer them to the nearest health facility.

With the training she has received from Amref Health Africa in Kenya through the Global Fund Malaria Round 10 Project, Beatrice Muguoke (commonly known in her village as ‘Nyar Kisumu’ meaning a lady from Kisumu) has been able to contribute to the reduction of malaria cases in her community. This is after she became a Community Health Volunteer in 1990, something she never regrets.

The 62-year-old mother of four has served her community for more than 20 years and is in charge of Omia Malo community unit that has a total of 103 households in Siaya County in Kenya. This means she visits 80 homes each month offering basic health care in Community Case Management of malaria, issuing mosquito nets and providing basic malaria education. 

 “I have been trained by Amref Health Africa in Kenya to use rapid diagnostic tests, which test for the presence of malarial parasites in blood samples. I also educate families on proper use of nets,” she says.

The training by Amref Health Africa in Kenya on Community Health Strategy has greatly improved the Community Health Volunteers’ knowledge and skills needed to work at the community level. The training in proper case management of malaria provided them with the skills needed to assess the condition of the patient, look for danger signs and symptoms of severe disease and take appropriate action.

“I am not allowed to test and treat pregnant mothers. Instead, I refer them to the public health facility which is Ongielo Health Centre. When you visit my house, you will think it is a clinic. I have artemether lumefantrine (AL) drugs for malaria, antibiotics and the Rapid Diagnostic test. I am always on alert and my phone has to be on, since people call me even at midnight for testing and treatment,” Beatrice adds.

“Some of the children I attend to  have symptoms such as fever, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches. Sometimes the symptoms are side effects of the artemether lumefantrine (AL) drug that I give them but even then they need to be managed properly,” Beatrice continues. “I let them know they can call me anytime to their houses.”

As a Community Health Volunteer, she also has to fight myths and tradition towards malaria that plague her community. Some people in the county still use herbs to treat malaria. However, with the help of community health volunteers like Beatrice, villagers are being educated on the need to seek medical expertise at their nearest facility.

"Sometimes it’s difficult for us community health volunteers. I can find myself using my own money to help some of the members of my community who are in dire need and cannot get to the hospital due to lack of transport money." 

“I am not retiring soon!” she says while laughing. “I will put down my tools when Omia Malo is declared malaria free,” she adds.

 

My children would not be alive without the help of Beatrice: Evelyne

“Beatrice has brought a lot of happiness to my family ever since I knew her," says Evelyne, one of the mothers who has felt the impact of the work of Beatrice Muguoko.

Evelyne Owour is a 26-year-old mother of five who hails from Omia Malo Village. For her and her family, malaria has been a great burden. She now knows too well the risks of children becoming ill with malaria, the danger of not treating it quickly and effectively, and the aftermath of failing to use preventative measures to keep malaria at bay.

Evelyne talks about the agony her friend went through after she lost her child, who was just six years old. “The child was vomiting and had a fever, so the parents took the child to the health centre, but on arrival she was diagnosed with malaria. Since they had taken a long time to go to hospital, the baby, unfortunately, died.”

Evelyne says that Beatrice has taught her how to stay healthy and prevent the prevalent diseases in the region with special focus on malaria. Beatrice advises her on preventative measures, as well as practical tips, such as how to cover her bed and her children’s bed using a treated mosquito net.

Before I knew Beatrice, we had a very hard time fighting malaria. Even my children almost died from the disease. The nearest health facility is far away, and I hadn’t realized how dangerous malaria could be,” she says. “I am more at peace now and we can sleep better at night as I know how to cover my family with treated mosquito nets.”

“I really thank Beatrice as she is always available anytime I call her. When my children are sick, especially at night, I call her and she immediately comes and treats them,” Evelyne says.

Amref Health Africa in Kenya through support from the Global Fund continues to make excellent progress in the fight against malaria in the county, and families like Evelyne’s are greatly relieved.

By Maureen Cherongis