Community health worker contributes to change in community

Topics: Africa, Community Health
January 29, 2015

Photo of community health worker

By: Kirole Ruto Kanyakera

In Narukumo, located in Central Pokot in Kenya, lives 32-year-old Simon Mariach.  Simon is one of the 26 community health workers collaborating with the Kenya Red Cross to implement change around the community’s perception of health with an aim to reduce or eliminate preventable diseases.

In 2012, the Kenya Red Cross, with support from the Canadian Red Cross, began a Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) project. When the project began, Simon had 162 individuals and 34 households in his village to work with. At this time, there were no households with latrines.

“Even during cholera outbreaks where many community members, including my own relatives, lost lives, we still could not understand the relation between contacting cholera and other fecal oral infections to our sanitation and hygiene practices. This was because the concept was not well communicated,” said Simon.

The Pokot culture never valued latrine construction and usage because cultural beliefs and taboos hindered this type of implementation.

“When the MNCH project with the Kenya Red Cross began, it was a real eye opener to outdated culture and practices embraced by our community. During my training, I learned that 90 per cent of the diseases in the community such as cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid, and dysentery were due to poor hygiene, sanitation and especially the lack and use of latrines,” added Simon.

In order to pass on proper practices to his community, Simon had to construct a latrine for himself, so others could see the importance. To construct his latrine, he used local materials and the work took only 10 days to complete. This motivated him and he is now an influence in the community and amongst the other community health workers. The community’s chief uses Simon’s approach to encourage other community members to construct additional latrines.
Simon now uses his latrine along with his wife and 65 year-old mother.

“I never knew how good it was to use a latrine but my son has shown me a good facility as oppose to the bushes that we used to use,” said Simon’s mother. “I sensitize my friends and have shown them ours in order to sensitize their families to construct and use.”

Today it is easier for Simon to sensitize community members on the importance of the use of latrines. Several community members have already followed his practices and built their own.