Thursday, August 4, 2016

Community action helps prevent child deaths from pneumonia: Volunteers act as life-saving link between community members and health staff

By Ponlok Leng

Nak Rèth holds her baby, alongside her husband Eth Sok,
at their home in the village of
Sereimeanrith in Mondul Kiri Province.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2016/Leng

Mondul Kiri Province, Cambodia, July 2016 – A village health support group is breaking down communication barriers and helping to save the lives of young children by spreading life-saving awareness about infections such as pneumonia.

One such beneficiary of this initiative is 24 year-old Rèth Nak, the mother of a four month-old daughter who recently contracted the illness.

Ms. Nak cannot read and write Khmer because she never attended school and therefore she finds it difficult to understand key health care messages written on banners posted in her community.


She said: “I saw the pictures on the banners posted in the village. I understand that when a child gets sick [with symptoms and the danger signs] of coughing or puffing it is important to take immediate action and take the child to a health centre.”

To counteract this communication issue, Ms. Nak has received direct counseling about pneumonia from a village health support group member, Sreymom Oeun.

After she was educated about the dangers of pneumonia, Ms. Nak’s own baby became sick with worrying symptoms of the condition and armed with her new-found knowledge, Ms. Nak was in a position to seek essential help from Ms. Oeun.

Ms. Nak told the village volunteers about her baby’s symptoms including coughing, laboured breathing and a high fever. They told her to urgently take the child to a health facility for immediate treatment.

Ms. Nak told the volunteers she didn’t have any transport to take her daughter to a clinic, nor the money to cover medical costs. Ms. Oeun stressed the severity of the situation and used her own motorbike to convey the sick baby and mother to the Kaoh Nheaek Health Centre.

Village health support group volunteer Oeun Sreymom (right) talks
to Rèth and her husband Eth Sok about the symptoms of pneumonia.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2016/Leng
Medical staff administered treatment and within a week the baby was completely cured and able to go home to Sereimeanrith village where Ms. Nak lives with her 26 year-old husband, Eth Sok, a rice farmer.

Ms. Nak expressed her heartfelt appreciation for the advice and intervention of the village health support group volunteers.

She said: “I would sincerely like to give thanks to the village health support group who pushed and motivated my family to bring my child to be hospitalized on time.

“If not, I do not know how it would have turned out. Now, my child has recovered.”

The village health support group are elected by their communities to provide basic health education to prevent childhood illnesses, identify danger signs in children, and support timely referrals to health facilities.

They receive training and communications support from health centres with technical and financial support from UNICEF and this has equipped group members with the skills to disseminate information and raise awareness in their community about pneumonia – a preventable and treatable condition.

Sreymom Oeun, village health support group volunteer, 
is pictured in front of IEC (information, education and 
communication) materials used to educate villagers 
about the dangers of pneumonia.
© UNICEF Cambodia/2016/Leng
Every day, an estimated 35 children in Cambodia die before their fifth birthday as a result of preventable and treatable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea. Pneumonia deaths among newborns and children under-five account for a significant portion of child mortality, and it is further estimated that a large proportion of these deaths take place during the first month of the baby’s life. The intervention programme involving community outreach conducted by health centre staff with support from the village health support group in Mondul Kiri Province, plus quality services at local health centres, is helping to prevent and treat cases of childhood pneumonia and advance Cambodia’s progress on child survival.

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting case.but how often are VHSG invited for such training opportunities? Is there any prescribed qualifications to be selected as VHSG?

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