Combating cholera in Kibra slums through Community Health Volunteers

39-year-old Peter Odoyo is one of the Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) who have taken on the challenge to combat cholera outbreak in Kibra slums, the biggest in Africa with approximately 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements. 

He is in charge of 110 households where vulnerable women and children made up of the majority of residents live in houses with poor drainage and waste disposal.  
Cooking in the filthy surroundings just near waste drainage and rubbish pit is a common scene. This area lacks basic social amenities such as clean and safe water and decent toilets cost five Kenya shillings forcing many residents to defecate in plastic bags and litter in the environment commonly known as ‘flying toilets’. As a result, the area has become a breeding point for water-borne diseases like cholera. 
Peter has lived in Kibra since 1996 and for 19 years he has seen cholera take its toll on young children and people in the urban slum. This year, there was a cholera outbreak that spread in the slums causing a lot of death. To address the problem, Leap the mHealth platform came on board and trained CHVs like Peter on cholera prevention. 
“I started the training in June 2017 after the cholera outbreak, it came handy because I used to learn from my phone and continue my work of visiting households,” he says. “I did my training within three days, I was the best student, I scored 100%,” adds confidently. The Leap training entailed introduction to cholera, causes of cholera, and prevention method.
“I encourage people to boil or treat  drinking water, eat hot food, and wash their hands after visiting the toilet. I also teach my community members proper hand washing habits and proper toilet disposal. Sometimes I give out Aquatab provided by the Ministry of Health for treating water,” explains Peter.
During his normal house visit, Peter sometimes meets some patients who have cholera symptoms. He knows how to detect the signs and symptoms of a cholera patient. According to Peter it is very vital that people know how to seek help immediately if they experience symptoms because without help they can die within hours of severe diarrhea as a result of shock. 
Peter will never forget how he saved the life of Alex, one of his community members. “He was very sick but he didn’t know it was cholera, he couldn’t walk or even talk, when his wife told me his symptoms I knew it was cholera,” says Peter. Alex was rushed to the Mbagathi District hospital and was diagnosed with cholera. Alex now lives to inform and educate other families on cholera.
Even as CHVs help prevent and control cholera, there is a still the challenge of shortage of safe water exacerbating to the outbreak of cholera and acute diarrhea.  
Leap complements face to face training making the CHV learn at the comfort of their home using their mobile phone. Peter confirms how the training has been convenient to him, “Doing my cause using Leap was very convenient because I used to study in the evening after my work. Leap gave me time to do my own things. I would also refer whenever i forget anything,” he concludes.
In June 2017 Amref Health Africa through Leap and in partnership with Unilever East Africa trained 120 Community Health Volunteers in Kibra who play a key role in raising awareness on how to prevent and respond to cholera. The four key messages they spread are: hand washing with soap, use safe water, and ensure the food is safe and how to handle a sick family or community member.
Written by Maureen Cherongis.

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