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Health workers, a hit in the Goromonzi district …Unsung heroes of the health profession

Community health working has become a profession of choice in the Goromonzi district although for all the toil, one is not remunerated.The job has seen hordes of people joining the noble profession, going around many wards in the Goromonzi district imparting knowledge about various ailments and their preventative methods.

 

One unsung hero in this realm is Emma Nyatsambo of Goromonzi district.

“In Zimbabwe, you need at least two things to be a village health worker like Emma Nyatsambo (46), One is exposure, the other is a tablet,” she said.

In her rich, deep voice, with a wide, warm smile, Ms Nyatsambo says, “If you want to join the village health worker programme, you need great love, Great love for the community.”

Reaching remote families

Village health workers play an essential role in the primary healthcare system in Zimbabwe.

All of the country’s village health workers have been especially selected by the elders in their villages because of the respect they’ve earned in the community. Ms. Nyatsambo has proudly served in her position since…….

Village health workers receive ongoing training, as well as uniforms and health kits. They are sometimes given a bicycle, which provides a low-cost and sustainable mode of transport that allows them to travel up to 20 km a day to reach remote rural families.

Working at the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic

Zimbabwe is at the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Nearly 1 in every 6 children has lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Village health workers, who know and have held every child in their community, come face to face with the reality of the situation on a daily basis.

Making sure that pregnant women are tested early and receive anti-retroviral drugs helps ensure that fewer mothers pass the virus along to their babies.

Ms Nyatsamba shared interesting stories of children HIV-negative children born of HIV-positive parents, and are growing well.

She shares important lessons with her villagers both positive and negative, about keeping their little ones well fed, about hand-washing and about keeping their living environment clean of refuse so that the entire family can remain healthy.

Facing community challenges, together

On this same day, Ms Nyatsambo share another experience in her village, a young couple living with an extended family. They are expecting their first baby, and hoping for a baby girl.

The parents-to-be agree that their primary wish is for a healthy baby. While the wife has already tested negative for HIV, the husband is yet to be tested.

Ms Nyatsambo encourages fathers like these to be tested, despite cultural resistance.

“In our culture, it is difficult,” she says. “The men will say, ‘I’m not pregnant. Why should I be tested?’ But I tell them this is not a man’s problem. This is not a woman’s problem. It’s a community problem. I encourage them to be tested.”

Maternal mortality is also a concern of Ms Nyatsambo, here, 1 in 8 women dies in pregnancy or childbirth. Ms Nyatsambo encourages and husbands to accompany their wives to a local clinic when it’s time to give birth.

A sign at the local clinic reads: “No matter where a woman lives, giving birth should be a time of joy and not a sentence to death.”

When Ms Nyatsambo is asked how long she plans to be a village health worker, she breaks into another one of her warm smiles. “I will be a village health worker forever,” she says.

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