Village Health Workers (VHW) projects were a joint initiative between large overseas organisations and the Tanzanian Ministry of Health. The idea was to extend the chain of health care down to the village level.
The concept of Village Health Post was envisioned to deal with a limited range of problems using basic medicines supplied by the bottom level of the health service, the dispensary. This service would not only provide some treatments more conveniently to patients but also relieve some of the burden on the facility above. A great deal of money was spent in the recruitment and training of VHWs, however, none actually fulfilled their potential because medicines in the system never reached them.
VHWs were a good idea, if medicine could be made available to them. However, the flaw in the plan was that there was no way an already poorly supplied dispensary would ever find the resources to pass anything further down an already thin line.
Over time the VHWs faded away into dormancy. Along came CHCD.
The idea is simple; we start at the bottom. We train people in the community as health workers. These VHW's can conduct small procedures and give treatment for basic illnesses. This allows us to reach the right group and help out where it is most needed, without any loss on the way.
At first we contacted the villages Headman (the Headman is a leader elected by the villagers not the government) who organized a vote within the village on who they wanted to appoint as their VHW. Nowadays CHCD and MEA are well known and recognised as sustainable and secure projects, so villages contact us hoping to establish VHW's.
Kits are given for free, however, we encourage communities to consider setting an optional contribution for treatments. This funds various small costs, such as soap and pencils, provision for a place to work from and some income for the VHW (to cover the time that would be spent on food production).
This key factor not only makes the patient value the service but also provides some degree of sustainability for the project in the village.