One Million Community Health Workers

One Million Community Health Workers

The African Union Endorses New Community Health Worker Campaign And 2013 Roll-Out

Jan 28: ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: At the opening of the African Union’s 20th session Sunday, the new African Union Chairperson, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn announced his strong support for the new One Million Community Health Workers Campaign that was launched by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, Professor Jeffrey Sachs and Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez at the World Economic Forum last week. The AU Chair and several African leaders agreed that urgent effort is needed for African nations to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and that the new healthcare campaign will be critical to success.

“I believe the One Million Community Health Workers campaign will certainly go a long way in helping us make progress towards achieving the health-related MDGs,” said Prime Minister Hailemariam in his opening remarks. As AU Chairperson, Prime Minister Hailemariam will be working closely with the campaign to train and deploy hundreds of thousands of health workers this year. “I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to my good friend and brother President Paul Kagame, Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez and Director of the Earth Institute Professor Jeffrey Sachs for launching this important initiative.”

Several other African leaders expressed their determination to move forward on the campaign, including outgoing AU Chairperson President Boni Yayi of Benin, and MDG Advocate Co-Chair, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.  Professor Sachs met with other African leaders, heads of UN agencies, and leaders in public health, including UN Special Envoy for Malaria, to join forces for the 1 Million Community Health Worker Campaign.

The new campaign will work closely with governments and aid agencies to finance and train the health workers, each of whom would serve an average of around 500 rural inhabitants.  The incremental costs for full coverage might sum to around $2.5 billion per year, or $5 per person per year covered by the expanded CHW program.  The campaign will work to mobilize these additional funds from existing and new donors, as well as from the host countries consistent with their budgetary means.

“This is a very bold campaign: one million workers in just three years,” said Sachs. “It’s a stretch, but it’s possible if the public health community moves very fast and in partnership. The absolute sine qua non will be the leadership of the African Union and each country, and based on the strong and resolute support expressed here in Addis, I know that the campaign can count on that.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, around 10 percent of children die before reaching the age of 5, overwhelmingly of preventable and treatable causes.  Maternal death rates are also very high and preventable.  Many adults as well suffer unnecessarily from a range of readily treatable diseases, ranging from malaria and diarrhea to tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Many countries are struggling to make progress toward the health-related Millennium Development Goals partly because so many people live in rural areas beyond the reach of well-staffed and well-provisioned health care. Trained community health workers — equipped with supplies and with smart phones that enable them to get training, advice, data, and access to emergency services — can transform the rural health situation.  Smart phones also allow for smart systems, in which health managers quickly receive valuable information entered by the community health workers.

The One Million Community Health Worker campaign will be overseen by a steering committee hosted by the Earth Institute and overseen by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network ( as part of its Solutions Initiatives. The effort is also backed by the UN MDG Advocates and the UN Broadband Commission, both of which are co-chaired by President Kagame. The campaign and Prof. Sachs, in his role as special advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, will work closely with the international community — businesses, UN agencies, donor organizations, telecommunications companies — to build partnerships to support the national programs. In addition, a leadership committee is being formed, with senior African leaders.

The campaign aims to boost the ongoing community health worker programs and policies of many leading institutions, including: GAVI Alliance, Glaxo Smith Kline, Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, RESULTS, Roll Back Malaria, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNAIDS, UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development, United Nations, USAID, the World Bank, WHO Millennium Villages Project, and Millennium Promise. For a list of participants in the campaign, please visit:


  1. Solomon Abate

    That’s a pretty ambitious but an endorsement that could be attained given the commitment of all the stakeholders. Great job! I look forward to seeing it hsappen, God willing!

  2. Jonas Kamala

    It sounds good, politician should see it in a positive way towards achieving millennium goals and not political goals.

  3. Patrick Tang

    We are following this campaign with great interest and wish you the best of luck.

    One note: On this page, the $2.5 billion estimate assumes that each CHW will serve 500 people at $5 per patient per year. However, on other pages on this site, the figures given are 650 people per CHW at $6.58 per patient per year, with the same $2.5 billion estimate. I’m assuming the 500/5 are the correct figures?