The Tanzanian government hosted the first multi-country national planning workshop of the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign on April 14-18. Delegates from eight sub-Saharan African countries—Comoros, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zanzibar—participated in the four-day workshop. Country teams worked with members of the Campaign’s secretariat and other partners on plans to scale-up Community Health Worker (CHW) cadres.
In the final 1000 days before the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire, governments and communities are working to strengthen primary healthcare delivery to reach their 2015 targets. CHWs deliver health services in impoverished rural areas and track the health of their patients. Paid, full-time CHWs are crucial figures for reducing disease incidence and promoting equitable access to healthcare.
The workshop’s goal was to prepare participating countries to expand CHW systems in conjunction with national health system strengthening efforts. Breakout sessions by country focused on essential components of CHW systems, such as integration of vertical disease areas, sustainable financing and governance, and supportive supervision. Many key agencies were present to help country delegations identify tools and partnerships that they can use in their national CHW scale-up activities. These organizations included AMREF, the Center for National Health Development in Ethiopia, MDG Health Alliance, Millennium Promise, Roll Back Malaria, UNAIDS, UNICEF, USAID, WHO, World Vision International, and others.
Tanzanian Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare Dr Seif Rashid and WHO Country Representative Dr Rufaro Chatora warmly welcomed the group at the opening ceremony. Dr. Prabhjot Singh, Co-chair of the Campaign, facilitated the workshop’s plenary sessions. Professor Jeffrey Sachs appeared in two video conferencing sessions and reinforced the Campaign’s aim to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.
At the end of the workshop, the eight participating countries resolved to finalize roadmaps that will highlight domestic commitments and identify global financing gaps. They will release these documents for broader review by June 1, 2013, pending ministerial clearance. Each country will initiate implementation activities once suitable financial partnerships with global agencies have been confirmed.
“The Campaign is grateful to the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development for hosting our first workshop here at the Tanzanian Training Centre for International Health (TTCIH),” said Dr. Singh. “We are also grateful to the country delegations who participated in the workshop. They have demonstrated exceptional leadership, and we are confident that their efforts will inspire other countries in the region to follow suit.”
This is only the beginning of a concerted push toward 2015. The global community recognizes how important it is to scale CHWs in sub-Saharan Africa and now is the time to work with governments and communities to upgrade and extend health systems to serve the most vulnerable populations. Keep following our blog to get updates on progress from these countries.