Annet Kirabo is a Living Goods community health worker in Kampala, Uganda and a mother of three. 

She is one of the thousands of digitally empowered Living Goods community health workers (CHW) who go door-to-door in their neighborhoods, providing some of the primary care essential health services that aren’t easily accessible.

In Uganda, there is only one doctor for every 25,000 people. The recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) is one doctor per 1,000 people.

Kirabo and her fellow community health workers reach out to the most vulnerable populations in their communities, including most of whom are children and pregnant mothers. The community health workers focus primarily on maternal, newborn, and child health, as well as family planning and immunizations.

“Community health workers are very important. We are the number one hospital within the communities,” Kirabo says.

Living Goods, a Cisco non-profit partner, saves lives by digitally enabling community health workers who deliver care on-call — making it easy for families in need to get the care they need while also giving the CHWs an income to support themselves and their families.

Kirabo uses Living Goods’ Smart Health App, developed with Medic Mobile and backed by Cisco, to keep track of her clients and her work. Internet connectivity plays a vital role. The app organizes her tasks, enables her to conduct diagnostic assessments, and helps her determine what medicines and doses to give her patients.

The Smart Health app also helps mothers know when to immunize their children by determining what vaccines they need, and tracking their progress.

Vaccines are a critical aspect of health care in Africa. Only 1 in 5 children across the continent receive the life-saving vaccines they need to survive.

Living Goods and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance have worked together to reach more than 5 million people with immunization services. Through their partnership with Gavi, Living Goods-supported CHWs are able to provide vaccination counseling and referral services as part of the healthcare services available to clients in their communities.

So far, Living Goods and GAVI have been able to train 6,000 community health workers to conduct immunization work, according to Dr. Peter Kaddu, the director of health for Living Goods in Uganda.

Amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Living Goods community health workers are now using telemedicine via their cell phones to ensure that families continue to receive essential primary care during this time—making technology, internet connectivity, and the work of CHWs more important than ever. Living Goods is also supporting prevention messages and the distribution of essential medicines in the communities where they work.

Living Goods has trained all CHWs in COVID prevention, detection, reporting procedures, and personal safety measures to help prevent further spread of the disease. Additionally, Living Goods is integrating COVID protocol into the SmartHealth app and working to develop an SMS messaging platform to help equip CHWs with the most up-to-date tools to fight COVID in their communities. 

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This article was first published by Global Citizen on 2 July 2020.

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