Community Health Volunteers Contribute to Improved Malaria Prevention and Management in Kribi, Cameroon

Kodjo Morgah, Eric Tchinda, and Naibei Mbaïbardoum of Jhpiego (a Johns Hopkins University Affiliate) in Cameroon are presenting a poster at the Multilateral Initiative for Malaria Conference in Dakar this week. Their findings, seen below, show how community health volunteers can contribute to improving the quality of malaria control services in Chad and Cameroon.

CHV Lilian Kubeh preparing to administer a rapid diagnostic test. Photo by Karen Kasmauski.

Project objectives focused overall on contributing to the reduction of malaria-related morbidity and mortality in Cameroon and Chad. It also aimed to strengthen community-based interventions through the use of community health volunteers (CHVs) to manage simple cases of malaria and conduct awareness-raising activities. The geographic scope of the project was Kribi District in the south of Cameroon. Thirty-two health facilities are supported by Jhpiego. Kribi District has an estimated population of 134,876.

Reports from the National Malaria Control Program show that malaria is the leading cause of morbidity in Cameroon—an estimated 1,500,000 cases occur each year. In 2016, it was the leading reason for medical consultations (23.6% of all medical consultations) and hospitalizations (46% of all hospitalizations). Among children under 5 years of age, malaria accounted for 41% of all medical consultations and 55% of all hospitalizations. Malaria is also a leading cause of mortality. In 2016, Cameroon had 2,639 deaths caused by malaria—12% of all deaths across all age groups and 28% of all deaths among children under 5 years of age were attributed to malaria.

Project intervention strategies target the four levels of the health system. The CHV intervention was mobilized to support the strategy at the community level as seen in the attached diagram. In 2012 and 2014, 38 CHVs were selected by the community and received training to support areas in the district more than 10 km from a health center. (Note: 10 km was the measurement tool used to determine the geographic scope of each CHV for this project.) An initial donation of medications, data collection tools, and small equipment was made available to CHVs using funding from ExxonMobil Foundation.  An evaluation of the training intervention was conducted by an external consultant in April 2016.

CHV Daniel Ze conducting an individual educational session on IPTp. Photo by Karen Kasmauski.

CHVs conduct outreach activities in their communities—via home visits and community education sessions—to provide health education on malaria transmission and prevention, use of long-lasting insecticidal nets, the importance of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp), and the importance of promptly seeking medical care for suspected cases of malaria. CHVs also support national health campaigns and health promotion events, including World Malaria Day. In Cameroon, where CHVs are also able to test and treat patients, they administer rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and treat cases of uncomplicated malaria.

Motivation of CHVs included ongoing training and technical updates, regular replenishment of materials, CHVs are recognized and respected community leaders, provision of per diem and transport costs, and continued advocacy targeting district officials to provide CHV stipends to ensure sustainability. Attached are details of the supervisory activities that provided continual technical support to the CHVs to ensure that they retain knowledge and skills to carry out their activities and track their data.

Between 2013 and 2016 CHVs in these communities were able to reach nearly 20,000 people with a variety of malaria services as seen in the attached table. The project paid close attention to data quality, which was reviewed with the CHVs on a regular basis, resulting in improved data quality.  CHVs improved the accessibility of malaria prevention and care services for communities living in remote areas. Results from April 2016 external evaluation show these results. Knowledge of malaria prevention is significantly higher in households that did not receive CHV support (p = 0.001). Use of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets is higher in households that benefitted from CHV support (88%) than in households that did not benefit from CHV support (73%) (p = 0.023). There was an increase in the delivery of IPTp2, from 60% in 2012 to 70% in 2016.

In conclusion CHVs have increased their communities’ access to health centers through referrals, health education on malaria prevention, IPTp, and treatment for simple and severe cases of malaria. Regular supervision of CHVs by their supervisors (the health zone managers) is essential to maintaining and strengthening CHV performance and motivation. Continuing advocacy efforts with local authorities is necessary to ensure that CHV activities are sustainable. The project team aims to establish a mechanism to improve documentation of its activities to better measure the impact on indicators at the community, facility, and district levels, and provide evidence for advocacy to sustain these efforts.

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