By Yusufu S. Bangura
Doctor Brima making the discourse
The Director of Primary Healthcare at the Ministry of Health, Doctor Brima Osaio Kamara, has disclosed that since 2012 when the government included Community Health Workers (CHWs) into the health system, they have deployed over 860,000 CHWs in hard-to-reach areas across the country.
He made the above disclosure on Friday 13th October at the end of a four-day workshop on a Joint Country Support Capacity Plan for community health in Sierra Leone at the Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.
The theme for the four-day workshop is ‘One Plan, One Budget and One M&E Framework’.
He said they chose the theme because they wanted development partners to come together and get one plan and one budget.
Dr. Brima said in 2021, Sierra Leone revised its 2016 National Community Health Workers (NCHW) Policy, with a vision of providing a basic package of essential, cost- effective health services to communities nationwide.
He added that the 2021 National CHW Policy aimed at further strengthening and harmonizing community-based programs, and providing efficient, basic, and high-quality services that are accessible, equitable and affordable for everyone, especially those in hard-to- reach areas.
He said the 2021-2025 National CHW Strategic Plan served as the policy’s operational framework by providing guidance to all actors involved- from the national to the community level, in order to ensure the full implementation of the revised National CHW Policy.
Going further, Dr. Brima said the National Community Health Programme continues to strive towards standardizing the package of community health services, strengthening linkages between communities and primary health care facilities, and improving community ownership and governance.
He stated that the National Community Health Programme contributes to the Africa Union/ Africa CDC 2-Million CHWs initiative, which urges all AU Member-States to support and facilitate its implementation.
“To sustain and consolidate the overall gains achieved so far through the National Community Health Workers Programme and to strengthen government, stakeholder and implementing partner efforts, we, collectively recommended that the Ministry of Health, stakeholders and implementing partners strengthen governance, leadership and coordination of CHW at all levels, champion sustainable financing through continued advocacy and technical assistance, institute CHWs champions at different levels of governance for political prioritization of CHWs,” he recommended.
He noted that the evidence was clear because meaningful partnerships and a share-responsibility approach is one of the critical elements needed to effectively reach the last-mile in ensuring the impacts of the Community Health Service delivery is felt at all levels in Sierra Leone.
He concluded that the role of all stakeholders and implementing partners working hand-in-glove under the leadership of the Ministry of Health is a winning model.
While highlighting some of their challenges, CHW Operations Officer at the Ministry of Health, Hawanatu Kamara said over the years, they have been battling with salaries, so she called on the ministry of health to start paying them on monthly basis.
She said CHWs do not have enough tools like motorbikes and vehicles to move around the communities, especially during the rains.
She urged the ministry to support them with the necessary tools they need for them to be able to perform their duties efficiently.
She noted that there is no clear career pathway for CHWs, and that they need proper career pathway that will motivate them to work effectively.
She continued that they wanted to validate the CHWs database that will inform them about the number of CHWs in a particular community.
She complained about a delay in the submission of reports by CHWs because they don’t have the means of transportation to take them to the health facility.
The Deputy Minister of Health 1, Charles Senesie, thanked CHWs and implementing partners for a job well done, stating that he has gone through the recommendations.
“On behalf of the government and the ministry of health, we want to reiterate our firm commitment to the welfare of the CHWs and the recommendations that have been presented to us. We are committed to this document,” he said.
The four-day workshop attracted different implementing partners from UNICEF, WHO, UNAIDS, African Union, IFRC, Global Fund among others.