Home » Human Rights » Male Involvement in Community Care Crucial

For long, community based voluntary work has been a reserve for women. From the days of the popular “mbuya utsanana” the trend continued with Community Home Based Care (CHBCs) givers and Village Health Workers being dominated by female volunteers. Although there is a wide range of voluntary community activities a number of them revolve around health and HIVAIDS.

Notable community health volunteers such as Community Home Based Care (CHBC) givers and Village Health Workers have since received wider attention in Zimbabwe for their ability to provide continuum of care for the chronically ill and PLWHA in their home environment complementing health institutions.

To date, they have reduced patients visit to clinics, congestion in hospitals and built the capacity of client’ families to offer affordable, quality care for their relative.

The coming in of men has not only lessened the burden on women but has made it possible for men to effectively assist their peers especially in areas that women could not easily do so.

Care and support at times demands body contact with patients which at times is not easy for people of the opposite sex due to cultural issues around male and female relations.

There has been a lot of encouragement at international level for men to take part in community based initiatives which are mostly voluntary.

This, they argue, will not only lessen the burden on women but will make it possible for male patients to be effectively assisted by their peers including making it easier for male volunteers to educate their peers, especially in environments that males spend most of their time together.

Back home, a number of organisations have been encouraging men to tack part in community voluntary work, including community home based care.

In 2010, the Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) in partnership with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF trained 600 Village Health Workers in Chikomba and Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe District by encouraging at least 20 percent male involvement in the recruitment and training and today they are some of the best community based health workers and a good example of male involvement in the health delivery system too.

The organisation believes that the foundation of both good health and good care lie in the community.

“This simple fact is it is one of the fundamental principles of the Primary Health Care approach (PHC), the cornerstone of current government health policy. Community Home Based Care Workers (CHBWs) play a critical role on this. They can demystify professional jargon and educate people about their conditions and their treatments, thus acting as a key link between community members and the health department.

And beyond this, they can become community catalysts, mobilizing communities and facilitating their participation in addressing critical local determinants of health and community development, including water and sanitation, food security, personal safety and security, including housing”, indicated Mr Itai Rusike, Director for Community Working Group on Health.

Recently, Island Hospice and Health Care together with the National Ageing Network of Zimbabwe has been encouraging men to take part in Community Based Care activities. The organisation is building the capacity of care workers in Mutoko, Gwanda and Zvishavane in providing palliative care, HIVAIDS prevention, care and support including capacity building of community volunteers to provide geriatric services to the aged in their community.

One of the male participants Danai Agrippa of Mutoko indicated that men always excluded themselves from work that is not paid for.

“I noticed that men were being assisted by women including bed ridden men. I was mainly encouraged by the fact that there are men employed as nurses and doctors hence I realised the need to train as a health worker based in the community. Generally in most Zimbabwean societies, men are expected to be breadwinners and therefore should highly prioritise income-paying jobs instead of voluntary work. The role of caring for the sick for example has been viewed as the responsibility of women and the girl child. But some of us are shifting in the way we think. We are slowly progressing towards equal participation at all levels.”

Another participant from Mutoko, Maxwell Kamudiwa who benefitted himself from the CHBC programme when he was seriously ill took it upon himself to undergo training so that he will be able to assist other men in the community.

“The service is very unique and necessary. Before I fell seriously ill, I never imagined myself participating in such a programme but when I was bedridden I was amazed by the service I received.

The lady who assisted me ensured that I feel comfortable no matter what time of the day. She physically and psychologically assisted me in so many ways.

Our local clinics are very busy and one will never get that total attention as they strive to serve everyone. Before they started doing home visits I had already told myself that I will not make it as I was seriously ill. I am sure my relatives felt the same but here I am today.

They managed to wipe out that thought and helped me in being enrolled for ART.

It is because of such assistance that I told myself that when I get well, I will join others, get trained and assist other community members in providing this important service that benefits everyone”.

Mr Itai Rusike, a community health expert believes that much more needs to be done by stakeholders to not only improve the participation of men but also strengthen the effectiveness of community based health support.

“The use of local community members has several aantages over health care workers because they can easily communicate with and gain trust from their patients since they live in the same community.

They can also develop culturally relevant health materials and information that suit the community needs and they can be cost- effective extensions of the healthcare system.

Rwanda and Thailand are good examples as they employed and supported community-based health workers to deliver a range of primary health care services that significantly reduced mortality.

Rwanda now has more community health workers than Zimbabwe with a similar population size, Rwanda doubled its number of healthcare workers between 2007 and 2011 and even though almost 60 percent of these healthcare workers were among the lowest cadres, it was able to chart a decline in general mortality.

By extending the scope of what community based health workers do and supporting them, Zimbabwe could make a very real impact on maternal and child mortality.

It is crucial that CBHWs in Zimbabwe be allowed to do such things as HIV test, oral rehydration therapy, malaria treatment, the distribution of family planning kits and de-worming among others.”

The Community Working Group on Health pointed out that stakeholders in health need also to note that community based health work is not a cheap way of achieving good health but they need to be well organised and funded.

“Sadly there are just a few male volunteers in Community Home Based Care mainly because they are just paid a stipend and poorly supported. Community Based Care Givers as a crucial component of human resources for health should have an allocation from the national health budget, with good conditions of service.

“They also need adequate training and support from the health professionals and the government.

“It is important to recognise the key roles they can play in aancing community health and development, and take effective action to implement the proposals.”

Source : The Herald