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Districts to get 2,000 health workers

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3 – At least 2,000 community health workers will be trained in every district as a way of improving health care at the community level.

Eric Muchiri who heads the Vector Borne and Neglected Tropical Diseases division at the Ministry of Public Health said on Wednesday that they wanted to use community health workers to reduce the burden of neglected tropical diseases like bilharzias and elephantiasis among others.

Speaking after the opening of a regional meeting on Community Directed Interventions (CDI), Dr Muchiri said that the community health workers would be given basic skills in health care provision with emphasis on Eastern, Coast, Nyanza and Western regions.

“These are the provinces that are currently having a high burden of neglected tropical diseases,” he said.

The World Health Organisation Disease Prevention and Control Officer Joyce Onsongo said that the strategy would help in accelerating the achievement of Millennium Development Goals on health.

“We are not turning communities into little doctors. Of course, training health personnel takes a long time but we are giving them the minimum skills and information they need to know to support their fellow community members,” Dr Onsongo explained.

She said that the major challenge of implementing the CDI was finding a way of overcoming the constraint of weak health systems to get to communities without reach to health care services.

“There is no competition between a community health worker and a doctor, a nurse or any other health professional because there is such a big gap that these professionals are not addressing at the community level which will be handled by the community health workers,” she said.

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Dr Onsongo however noted that the CDI had recorded major success in some parts of Africa where it had been tried. She gave the example of countries that had recorded success in controlling river blindness, one of the neglected tropical diseases that intensify poverty.

River blindness is the fourth leading infectious cause of preventable blindness and 98 percent of the affected people are in Africa.

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