By Jenny Tolep
Imagine being a mother in a rural community in Cameroon and waking up in the middle of the night to a sick child. The nearest health facility may be miles away and, in some instances, you may not be able to afford the trip or the health services. For many in Cameroon, this is an all too common reality.
Pictured here in 2012, this mother won’t have to share this nightmare.
She lives in a community with access to a health worker who specializes in the diagnosis and care of childhood illness, particularly the top three killers of children under five: pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea. Community health workers receive training, resources and supervision from PSI through its community case management (CCM) program. The health workers encourage mothers to seek timely treatment, facilitate referrals to health facilities for more complicated illnesses and provide prepackaged treatment, such as ACTs for malaria and zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS) for diarrhea. They also educate families on what symptoms to look for in their children so illnesses are caught early.
And it works. Results from this project in Cameroon, showed that significantly more children received treatment with appropriate medicines as a result of having trained health workers in their community. For example 61 percent of children in the areas served by community health workers were treated with ORS, as compared with only seven percent of children in other areas.
Today PSI works with Ministries of Health and other partners to support community health workers and contribute to the global decline in child mortality. Globally, community case management (CCM) of all cases of childhood pneumonia, for example, could result in a 70% reduction in pneumonia mortality. Community case management of malaria can reduce overall child mortality by 40%. And community case management of diarrhea can reduce mortality in home and community settings, with ORS preventing an estimated 70‐90% of deaths due to acute watery diarrhea and zinc an estimated 11.5% of diarrhea mortality.
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Photo credit: Emily Carter