Community Health Workers Save Lives

Program to train community health workers helps create lasting health improvements.

Project timeline: February 2011 to June 2014
Funders: Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)
Canadian Auto Workers’ Social Justice Fund
Charles and Rita Field-Marsham Foundation
K.M. Hunter Foundation
Blossom Foundation
Individual Canadians

Situation – Marginalized and remote communities face grave health challenges

Africa is home to 25 per cent of the global disease burden but only 3 per cent of the global health workforce, according to The Lancet. The lack of health care is most deeply felt in marginalized and remote communities.

  • Lack of access to basic health care is one of the driving forces of maternal and child deaths
  • Underprivileged African women face a one in 12 risk of dying from pregnancy related causes, compared to one in 3,800 in developed countries.
  • Preventable and curable diseases still devastate African communities. Malaria, for example, causes up to 1.5 million deaths each year, over 90 per cent of which occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

Action – Training Community Health Workers in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa

During this three-year project, Amref Health Africa worked  with governments and communities to build broader access to health care through trained Community Health Workers. The program:

  • Trained Community Health Workers. Community Health Workers are volunteers who receive basic health training and work directly with people in their community to improve health.
  • Integrated Community Health Workers with the health system as a whole, ensuring project communities receive the best care possible.
  • Increased the survival of moms and babies through improved access to health care for marginalized and remote communities.

Results – Improving health, and saving lives

Trained Community Health Workers proved to be invaluable in improving health in the communities in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa where this project took place.

Successes of the three-year project include:

  • 1,415 community health workers were trained (60% of them women), with focused attention on mother and child health.
  • 100,617 household visits were carried out by community health workers to provide information on the treatment and prevention of diseases, mother and child health, immunization and reproductive health.
  • 161,296 people attended special health promotion activities aimed at raising awareness of common preventable illnesses.
  • In the Kenyan program communities, 28% of women attended pre-natal visits during their first trimester, up from 13% at the start of the program.
  • In Tanzania, 4,190 women and 11,209 children received better access to health care after five health centres were refurbished.
  • 12, 245 anti-malaria bednets were distributed to help prevent malaria, leading to 86% of children under the age of five and 79% of women sleeping under the nets.
  • 26,306 patients were referred to health facilities by community health workers for further treatment


Ministry of Health, government of Kenya
Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute
Ministry of Health, government of South Africa
Ministry of Health, government of Tanzania
Ministry of Health, government of Uganda

Improving Health in South Africa: Traditional Health Practitioner Nompumelelo Mthembu

Published: 08 April 2014 Sean Power

Nompumelelo Mthembu is a Traditional Health Practitioner in South Africa. Amref Health Africa works with Traditional Health Practitioners like Nompumelelo to tackle HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and improve health care for pregnant women and newborns. Read more

Project at a glance


Africa is home to 25 per cent of the global disease burden but only 3 per cent of the global health workforce.


Training Community Health Workers in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa.


1,415 community health workers took part in training, with focused attention on mother and child health.

Kevin O'Neill
Director of Programmes

Kevin O'NeillWant to partner with Amref Health Africa in Canada on a health project? Want to know more about our projects? Get in touch with our Director of Programmes, Kevin O'Neill.