August 23, 2017
Written by U.S. Agency for International Development
This post originally appeared on USAID website.
When 8-month-old Bora Shewki of Ethiopia’s Hamer woreda (district) began suffering from a poor appetite, cough and fever, Kari Turle, his mother, recognized the symptoms right away: Bora had contracted pneumonia. Kari, a pastoralist in the South Omo Valley, had seen the illness before, and said she used to take her sick children “to the health center, which is very far from where I live.” This time, though, she was able to find treatment for Bora at the nearby Aera Keysa health post, where health extension workers had recently been trained in treating childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and malnutrition through a strategy to expand community-level access to lifesaving treatments.4
The health extension worker who likely saved Bora’s life, Tarikua Lulayehu, was trained to identify and treat common childhood illnesses through the Health Extension Program, begun by the Government of Ethiopia in 2004. The program trains young women to provide basic health services and deploys them in pairs to rural villages around the country, where they provide essential services and empower communities to take charge of their own health.
Health extension workers such as Tarikua form the backbone of Ethiopia’s health care system. They receive training in a number of health-related skills, including Integrated Community Case Management (iCCM), a strategy to expand access within communities to lifesaving treatment for children suffering from pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.
Today, Tarikua takes pride in the iCCM training that she received and in her exemplary health post, a model facility that has applied all 16 elements of the Health Extension Program. “Before I attended the iCCM training, I did not have the skills to treat sick children, especially those who suffered from pneumonia,” Tarikua says. “All I did was send them to the health center with a referral slip. Now that I have the skills, I assess, classify and treat sick children and provide medication accordingly. I write referrals only for severe cases.”