PanAfricare Blog

Voices from the Front Line: The Inspiring Story of Three Community Health Volunteers Fighting Against Malnutrition


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on print

Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) continue to play critical roles in providing Level 1 health services. In some cases especially in far-flung areas, they are the few available health service providers.

PanAfricare IMPACT Program funded by Bayer Fund closely works with CHVs to reduce the prevalence of malnutrition. Trained health volunteers conduct regular home visits promoting behavior change, administer Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tests, refer acute cases of malnutrition, and hold health talks delivering key health messages.

Esther Ajikon, Susan Nakado, and Phoebe Nelima are Community Health Volunteers in Turkana South; they are part of the 48 CHVs the Program work with in Katilu and Turkwel wards in Turkana County.

They tell their stories of being Community Health Volunteers:

Ajikon the village “doctor.”

In Namakat village Turkana County, Esther Ajikon is a common figure and is known by everyone. She has earned the nickname “daktari” (doctor) for what she does in the community.

Ajikon is a Community Health Volunteer whose happiness is seeing her community lead healthy lives. Apart from home visits which she conducts at least twice every week, Ajikon mobilizes women in her community to train them on Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). She also teaches women how to set up and manage kitchen gardens.

Ajikon recognizes that some traditions are retrogressive and affect the health of children and mothers. “Some traditional beliefs discourage breastfeeding, clinic visits, and vaccination. My work is to ensure that more mothers are willing to breastfeed and visit the clinic every month.” She notes that changing the beliefs requires patience and persistence “Initially, some people never wanted to hear from me but after several visits, they gained interest in what I was saying.”

Ajikon believes that improving the health of her community begins with improving feeding habits and changing norms.

Susan Nakado; the health champion in Kanaodon

During home visit days, Susan Nakado’s day starts with a round in her village checking on the registered pregnant women in her village in Kanaodon deep in Turkana South Sub County. During her checks, she also visits homes with first-time mothers with lactating children to remind the mothers of the breastfeeding best practices. She will administer MUAC tests and check the children’s navels. “When women give birth at home, they place ash on the navel area. This is not recommended so I refer the children to the nearest health facility to get the right medication.”

Susan Nakado closely monitors pregnant women in her community. During her visits, she advises against heavy work and danger signs to watch. “I advise pregnant women to immediately visit a hospital whenever there is any severe headache, back pain, or blood discharge because it could be a sign that something is wrong with the pregnancy.” Says Susan.
Susan shares her most memorable moment as a Community Health Volunteer having saved the life of a girl with an acute case of malnutrition. “During my household visits, I came across this five-year-old girl with swollen yellowish feet. By pressing her feet, I discovered it was a severe case of oedema caused by acute malnutrition. I quickly referred her to Kanaodon Health Centre and was later referred to Lokichar for specialized treatment.”

Susan noted that after treatment the child’s health gradually improved and now is a young bubbly child. “My heart is filled with happiness whenever I see that girl. I am grateful that out of my work life was saved.”


Phoebe Nelima

For Phoebe Nelima in Katilu village Turkana County, being a Community Health Volunteer is a divine call. For the past ten years, Nelima has worked as a health volunteer ensuring her community is healthy and pregnant women are safely giving birth.

Nelima says she tailors her day’s activities and educational materials depending on who she is planning to meet. Some days she checks on children on vaccination and if there are any defaulters she ensures it is followed up. “I can visit up to five households on a given day. I usually have a health talk on various topics including nutrition, gardening, and breastfeeding.”

The mother of four says the distance between villages is large and covering all the households used to be a challenge but the bicycles provided by PanAfricare have helped a great deal. She also notes that despite promoting the adoption of kitchen gardens, water to sustain the gardens is a major challenge. “If technologies that are water-efficient such as the cone gardens can be brought to every homestead, every home would have access to nutritious vegetables every day.”

Nelima calls upon all CHVs to proudly play their part in ensuring communities lead healthy lives and lifestyles.

By Dominic Kosgei, Communications Officer.