Somalia: Village health workers save lives

VHW training
A new cadre of village health workers is trained

 

Children in Somalia face some of the worst odds for survival – the country has the second highest under-five mortality rate in the world, second only to Sierra Leone.

Somalia’s health system remains dysfunctional, and little or no progress has been made over the past decade to improve child survival.

The situation is worst for communities in remote and insecure parts of the country, such as the semi-autonomous State of Puntland in the north-east, where I am this week to support our programme.

Karkaar: a remote and mountainous area in the semi-autonomous state of Puntland

Save the Children in Somalia works in close collaboration with the Ministries of Health across all parts of the country.

Over the past year, we have implemented a village health worker programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Health across five districts of the mountainous Karkaar region in Puntland.

Save the Children has trained volunteers from target villages to identify and treat common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and acute malnutrition.

The village health workers work on the frontline and have helped improve access to life-saving treatments for children closer to home.

Mothers no longer have to travel long distances to the nearest health centre or take their children to traditional healers.

Delivering services in these remote communities is not without its challenges and village health workers are frequently faced with shortage of medicines and supplies.

Despite the challenging environment however, village health workers treated close to 10,000 children for pneumonia, diarrhoea and fever in the past year.

We have also trained community groups to raise awareness on appropriate family practices, such as exclusive breastfeeding and hand-washing.

From our meetings with our partners and the Minister of Health, it was evident that Save the Children’s work is profoundly appreciated.

It was heartening to see the recognition and inspiring to meet dedicated team members delivering exceptionally under challenging circumstances – these are our health heroes, saving children’s lives where it’s needed the most.

Among them is midwife Hawa Dualle Aden (pictured below). Having delivered thousands of babies as a practising midwife. She now leads and inspires others as manager of our health worker programme in Karkaar.

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Hailing from a village in Karkaar and a mother of four herself, Hawa has first-hand knowledge of the ground realties and challenges.

She is a frontline health worker striving to improve child survival in her country – and one of our hundreds of unsung heroes across the globe.