Involving caregivers in preventing child mortality
With a 50 kilometre distance to cover to get to Loolmolog Dispensary, most community members of the Samburu community find it difficult to access constant medical attention especially for diseases such as tuberculosis (TB). This directly affects their family members, more so new-borns whose immune system is yet to fully develop.
Jenipher Leleruk, a member of this community and Community Health Volunteer who is passionate about child health understands this situation too well as she encounters it frequently while doing her rounds in the community. She is one of the CHVs in Samburu County who have been trained by the Uzazi Salama project, an MPESA funded Maternal and New-born Health (MNH) project that works closely with community health volunteers to improve access to better MNH services in Samburu.
Through the trainings and interactions with different medical practitioners that have been made possible by this project, Jenipher has been able to intervene to save the lives of children and ensure that caregivers too follow up on their treatment. This is essential in providing new-borns with a conducive environment to live past their fifth birthday.
She shares her encounter with John (not his real name) a male TB defaulter whom she met in January this year as she was doing her rounds in her community unit, “Since I met John in January this year, I have referred him four times so that he can go to the health facility and access treatment for his TB. However, he never followed my advice. He would always throw away the referral sheets I gave him and never bothered to seek treatment. It was not until late April this year that he realized the magnitude of his defaulting. He discovered that he had infected his new born with TB and I had to intervene. Uzazi Salama project had trained me well enough to understand that caregivers play a key role in ensuring that a new-born remains in perfect health. I made sure the baby was taken to hospital and I told him that if he does not seek treatment, I would report the case to the relevant personnel as well. It is then that he realized the situation could have been avoided and he had to act to avoid infecting any other member of his family”.
Through Jenipher’s referral, the health facility’s CHEW was able to put John and his new-born on treatment immediately. “It is now 2 weeks and I have made 2 visits to the household and he is taking his medication properly. I wish he had followed my advice from the beginning. He would not have infected his new-born. I am however glad that they are both fairing on well and they are adhering to their medication” says Jenipher.
With this experience, she is certain that he will not ignore any symptoms that require medical attention, just as he has promised. “I continue to realize the impact that I have on my community and more so the duty to protect more new-borns that is bestowed upon me. Some of these things I would never have known about them if I was not a CHV”, she affirms.