Community health in the time of COVID-19
Community health workers are playing a pivotal role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in low-income countries with vulnerable health systems. Following the disruption of formal health delivery, the implementation of social distancing measures and strained capacity at facilities, it is they who maintain the continuity of essential health services in their communities. In Kenya, we’re supporting Living Goods to carry out its core work of providing essential reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health services, while contributing its capacities, expertise and resources to the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Africa accounts for only a small proportion of the global number of COVID-19 cases, although the true scale of the pandemic may be hidden by a lack of testing and data issues.
Fragile healthcare systems could be rapidly overwhelmed in the face of a severe outbreak of COVID-19 and the risk to communities from existing health threats (malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea) would then increase substantially, as with the spikes in malaria mortality that occurred during recent Ebola outbreaks.
We provided additional support to those whose coordinated responses leveraged existing platforms, infrastructures and relationships.
In Kenya, Living Goods supports networks of government community health workers to ensure that these front-line workers are digitally-enabled, properly equipped, effectively supervised and fairly compensated so that they can deliver high-level community health services.
The community health workers assess and treat children under 5 for malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia, provide maternal and newborn care, deliver family planning education and commodities, and drive demand for essential immunization services.
In the COVID-19 crisis, we’re supporting Living Goods to carry out its core work, while contributing its capacities, expertise and resources to assisting the government actively address the pandemic.
During the initial phase of the pandemic, Living Goods’ strong focus on digital technology enabled community health workers to deliver a majority of maternal and child health services through virtual telemedicine, while building new workflows so that all assessments now begin by screening the individual and household for COVID-19-related symptoms.
The organisation has also procured sufficient appropriate personal protective equipment for the community health workers and is providing all essential medicines free of charge to ensure that cost is not a barrier to care.