TANZANIA: The government plans to introduce a new Integrated and Coordinated Community Health Workers (CHW) programme to further enhance access of healthcare at grassroots level.
The Assistant Director of Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health, Dr Tumaini Haonga said the programme, which is for mainland Tanzania, is in preparations stage whereby the ministry is conducting consultations with stakeholders to make them understand the programme before its launch.
It will be jointly implemented by the Ministry of Health, President’s Office (Regional Administration and Local Governments) and development partners.
“So, we have three months remaining for preparing the programme. We currently engage stakeholders so that we will be on the same page. The programme is set for launching on 1st January next year,” said Dr Haonga at a panel discussion at the ongoing 10th Tanzania Health Summit.
Dr Haonga elaborated that apart from strengthening primary healthcare, the programme is also expected to address challenges existing in the operations of the CHWs in the country.
Among the current challenges, the CHWs are not operating in a coordinated manner, disorganised training for them including provision of working tools.
“We need to provide them digital working tools that would be linked to the national system for sharing of information to a large scale,” he explained, noting that they will consider taking lessons from digital applications currently used by non-governmental organisations such as ‘AFYATech’ and Jamii Afya which is used by the D-tree organisation.
Furthermore, it will set modality for monthly payment to the CHWs in order to facilitate them, unlike currently whereby there are no formal payments to the group.
With funding from the government and partners, the programme will be implemented in phases depending on the availability of financial resources and priorities.
Dr Salim Slim, Director of Preventive and Health Education in the Ministry of Health in Zanzibar, stressed the importance of the CHV in the Isles, saying they help in bridging a gap in a needed number of health workers, particularly at primary level.
“Zanzibar has a deficit of 49 per cent of health workers, hence having the CHVs it reduces burden to nurses to attend a big number of patients. The CHVs should be a first point of contact for patients,” he stated.
On her part, Ms Halima Khamis, Senior Programme Manager of the D-tree, said the organisation has been incorporating digital system into the healthcare services at community level through its programme so called the Jamii Afya.
Since its introduction in 2021, the programme has made great strides in Zanzibar whereby CHWs are provided with digital gadgets such as tablets and mobile phones that are installed with applications for storing data and communicate with digital systems at designated health centres.
Ms Khamis added that the CHVs have been instrumental in changing behaviours among the community members, especially pregnant mothers to attend clinic.
One of the CHWs, Ms Dostea Luyunga, who operates in Kibaha District, Coast Region, said their work has been simplified after they were given digital gadgets for storing information of patients.
“With digital gadgets we are assured of not losing information and we save time when referring patients to health centres,” she said.