Ubau Mahamed Ahmed, age 22, is a community health worker in Garowe, Puntland. She serves as the link between communities of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the Nugal Maternal and Child Health Centre by informing, advising, and referring patients.
Due to hygiene issues in the IDP camps, the most common problems that Ubau sees in children are diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition. She says that she works closely with families to encourage sanitary practices in and around the home. Ubau ensures that those in need are referred to the health facilities. “It’s my responsibility to go and meet with every mother and family in their home,” she says. “They have a difficult time understanding the health services, so that’s why I need to go explain to them and send them to the health centres,” she adds.
Ubau tells a story of a mother and her child, who was treated at the Nugal Health Centre. “I had seen the symptoms of malnutrition and her baby was suffering,” Ubau says. After spending time with the mother, Ubau was able to convince her that her child could be helped at the clinic. “I went to the mother and spent time, and at first she totally refused to listen to me, but when she had seen that I was resisting to go away, she accepted, and came with me to the health facility,” she said. After the baby received treatment, Ubau went back to the mother who had once been skeptical about taking her child in for screening to make sure that she was happy with the services. In this way, Ubau continues to work with the communities in order to spread knowledge and educate the population about the importance of health care, “It’s mostly neighbour-to-neighbour that has the most influence,” she says.
The greatest challenge that Ubau faces is the lack of education in the communities concerning the benefits of the services that are available in the health care facilities. Ubau must first convince the community members to go see and experience the health centres for themselves. Ubau says that she has seen progress within the IDP camps, “One of the changes that I’ve seen is the acceptance of the nutrition programme and vaccination services. I have also seen changes in the health seeking behaviour of the community.” She continues, “One thing that I noted is that we need to have tolerance. Because we work in communities with less knowledge, I feel responsible, and it’s very important work, and that’s why I have to continue, I believe in it.”
The lifesaving work of Community Health Workers is part of the Essential Package of Health Services, which is made possible by the Somali Joint Health and Nutrition Programme (JHNP).