Strengthening Neighborhood Health Committees In Zambia
By Eric Liswaniso, Program Manager, Malaria Partners Zambia
Neighborhood Health Committees are the lowest level of the Zambian health system. A step below the clinics, NHCs have the mandate of supervising the Community Health Workers and other community-based volunteers. They are also responsible for identifying and nominating community members to serve as CHWs.
However, despite their obvious importance, these structures have been largely non-existent in some parts. And where they existed, there were no formal guidelines to regulate their work. This is why we came in as the Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia project to support the re-organization of these very important structures in the Zambian healthcare system. We did this by supporting the training of provincial, district, and facility-level staff in the new NHC guidelines. We then provided financial and material support for more than 4500 NHC members across 10 districts in Muchinga and Central provinces to be oriented in their new guidelines.
We mobilized Rotarians and Rotaractors from Ndola and Lusaka to participate in the monitoring and supervision of the orientation meetings around the districts. The Rotarians and project team along with government officials showed great determination to reach every facility where these orientation sessions were happening despite the harsh conditions of the Zambian rainy season which made navigating the rough terrain even harder. In typical Rotarian style, the challenge was taken on as an adventure and after nights spent in rural catholic parishes and a hospital, the mission was accomplished.
With the base structures now firmly in place, we have now strengthened the system that will support and regulate the work of our CHWs in the community. Having these structures in place also means that the selection of residents to serve as CHWs will be done by people who know them well. People they can be accountable to.
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