Ensuring that people in the community have the correct information regarding COVID-19 is vital to containing its spread and making sure that those infected are receiving the necessary treatment. Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) in Malawi are at the frontline of health promotion, prevention, monitoring, surveillance, response, and referrals of various diseases in the community, including COVID-19. Equipping CHVs with accurate information, as new knowledge of the disease and the vaccine continue to be discovered, will ensure that community members are well informed and can make good decisions regarding their health.
Chikhulupiliro Kalembeka is a 20-year-old CHV from Tambala village in Mayaka, Zomba. But like most CHVs in Malawi, he did not have any formal training pertaining to conducting his duties as a CHV, or any training on COVID-19 prevention or management.
The CAIA-COVID Response project, with financial support from the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada, has aimed to equip CHVs with the correct information on COVID-19 prevention and management by using Leap, a mobile learning platform. Chikhulupiliro is one of the CHVs from Zomba that was enrolled on the platform in June 2021. Since then, he has accessed the training material, engaged in group chats and completed quizzes. “What I particularly like about learning through Leap is the group chat feature, where I am able to chat and learn with other CHVs from my area. We can share information very quickly among ourselves on the group. There was a disinfection exercise that took place at the health facility a few days ago that resulted in the facility being closed for a few hours, and I heard that information on the group chat,” he said.
“Having gone through the material I feel more confident to share information on COVID-19 to people from my village. I have conducted three sensitization meetings in the village where I have reached nearly 300 people with information on COVID-19 prevention and how it is spread. I have also made 60 household visits (reaching an estimated 264 based on the fact that Malawi has an average household size of 4.4) where I have shared information on COVID-19 prevention,” Chikhulupiliro said.
Aaron Jeremiah, who is a Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) under the Ministry of Health and is also Chikhulupiliro’s supervisor, attested to the fact that Chikhulupiliro has conducted numerous household visits. “The fact that CHVs receive information straight to their phones allows them to work more independently,” he explained.
The CAIA-COVID Response project is currently working on incorporating COVID-19 vaccine material into the training module. There is widespread vaccine hesitancy in the communities due to misinformation shared and cultural beliefs. CHVs equipped with the correct information are vital if Malawi is to realize the goal of vaccinating 100% of the eligible population.