From the Field

Community health worker helps save child’s life

Akanya holds her granddaughter Delilah at their home in Uganda. Last year Delilah contracted malaria, and a World Vision-trained community health worker was able to diagnose her and provide anti-malarial medicine that healed her.

Akanya gently laid her hand on her granddaughter’s forehead. It felt hot — too hot. Three-year-old Delilah definitely had a fever.

“I reluctantly thought it was temporary and controllable by cooling with a damp cloth,” Akanya says.

Akanya cares for Delilah and four other grandchildren. The family lives in a rural part of eastern Uganda, a country that UNICEF reports annually experiences 45.8 deaths of children under 5 per every 1,000 children born. By comparison, the U.S. sees only 6.5 deaths per 1,000 children born. Much of those deaths are due to lacking access to basic healthcare because clinics are often far away, and people lack money and transportation to get there.

The cool cloth didn’t help. Delilah then lost her appetite and began having difficulties breathing. Akanya’s family doesn’t live near a local health center, but seeing her granddaughter getting worse, she knew she needed to do something. Panicked, she thought giving the child some acetaminophen tablets she had at home would help.

“I was very worried,” she says.

After two days, none of Akanya’s efforts had helped Delilah improve. She knew she needed outside help, so she turned to Dorah Nankya, a World Vision–trained community health worker (CHW). In early 2020, Dorah had recently visited homes in the community and registered families to be supported with health interventions. She and other CHWs targeted households with children under age 5. Their services are free, so there isn’t a financial burden on families who may already be struggling financially.

So shortly after dark, Akanya showed up at Dorah’s home with Delilah asking for help. “I didn’t expect to receive a patient, but I knew this was my calling,” Dorah says.

She quickly ran a rapid diagnostic test on the child, and the results showed that she had malaria. According to the World Health Organization, malaria is the leading cause of death in Uganda. Children are even more vulnerable. Dorah gave Delilah anti-malarial medicine and gave Akanya instructions on how to properly continue the treatment at home. She also shared the kinds of foods to feed her and that she needed a lot of fluids.

After two days, Akanya could feel Delilah’s fever reducing, and she saw her granddaughter had the strength to lift herself up and walk without being carried. “When she uttered out of the blue that she wanted to eat porridge, her favorite food, I definitely knew my grandchild’s appetite had returned,” Akanya says with a laugh.

On the third day, Dorah visited to check in and see how she was recovering and was delighted to see Delilah’s progress. She says, “I feel so proud when I treat a child and see them recover, and I’m really glad that World Vision brought this system into place.”

Dorah also took the opportunity to share with Akanya how she can prevent her grandchildren from getting malaria in the future. “This area is also surrounded by many swamps, and this has helped mosquitos breed and spread all over the community,” Dorah says. “It gets worse during rainy seasons.” She explained how sleeping under a bed net will help protect the family against mosquito bites that could lead to malaria.

Not wanting to see her grandchildren suffer again, Akanya began using a bed net. She is thankful for the life-saving help she received. “I’m grateful because health services are now closer to us,” she says. “This has helped me avoid expenses on transportation to [the] hospital in relation to the long distance involved.”

Dorah has continued to visit the family to monitor other aspects of Delilah’s growth and development as well. The COVID-19 pandemic has made her work even more important. As the virus has spread, many families fear contracting COVID-19 if they seek medical help at health centers for other conditions. CHWs help ensure that children and families are still safely receiving care, being monitored for potential health issues, and receiving treatment for other diseases, such as malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea.

 

Kristy J. O’Hara-Glaspie of World Vision’s U.S. office contributed to this story.

Health

View All Stories
World Vision is working to limit the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the pandemic’s secondary impacts on vulnerable children and their families worldwide.
From the Field

What is the coronavirus? Facts, symptoms, and how to help

Children play on the banks of the Naf River in Bangladesh. Across the water is Myanmar, which many thousands of Rohingya fled to find refuge in Bangladesh. World Vision is working to help refugees and also opened an area program for the host community.
Special Features

Called by God: The Every Last One campaign

Africa

View All Stories
Bangladesh is one of the five worst countries for child labor . Sixteen-year-old Joytun was injured in a fire at the bakery where she worked after dropping out of school to support her family. World Vision enrolled her in an informal education program, which helped her prepare to return to school. World Vision also helped her mother start a small grocery business that more than replaces the money Joytun was making in child labor.
From the Field

Child labor: Facts, FAQs, and how to help end it

How many refugees in the world? More than 65 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes, the most since World War II. About 22.5 million of them have fled their own countries as refugees. Find out the top six countries where refugees come from.
From the Field

Forced to flee: Top countries refugees are coming from