BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
Stakeholders in the health sector have called for an urgent upward review of the paltry US$15 allowances paid to community health workers (CHWs) as they are pivotal in bringing public health services to communities.
Currently, government is heavily relying on these community health experts who largely work on a voluntary basis to assist the Health ministry. The ratio of healthcare workers to the population is very low at 1,23 per 1 000.
Out of the US$15 that they receive as stipends, US$1 is deducted towards payment for bicycles which some of them received under the Global Fund in 2010.
“Our Global Fund allowances have not been consistent.
“We were told that we would receive these every quarter, but it is now taking over a year to get them,” said one irate CHW who preferred not to be named.
Community Working Group on Health (CWGH) executive director Itai Rusike said government should seriously consider an upward review of the allowances paid to the CHWs so that they could be supported by the national health budget.
“CHWs continue to augment the work being done by the mainstream health sector: raising awareness, giving health advice, monitoring growth of children less than five years, and mobilising communities during outreach programmes for immunisation,” he said.
“But despite these vital functions, the numbers of CHWs and their role has diminished over the past two decades in Zimbabwe.”
Rusike said this had caused disunity and low morale among the CHWs.
“Others are paid on time while some can go for long periods without getting their allowances or tools of the trade,” he said.
In the past, CHWs benefited from incentives such as uniforms, bicycles and allowances from money allocated through the national budget.
“But these incentives are now erratic and not being administered equitably.
It is risky and unsustainable for a country to depend substantially on external partners as donors can withdraw financial support anytime should their interests shift for some reason,” Rusike said.
CWGH has been training CHWs on COVID-19 as trusted sources of information for community literacy.
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