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Ghetto Stories

  • Writer's pictureGF Research Collective



In Nairobi ghettos like Mathare, community health volunteers (CHVs)

offer health services to vulnerable residents and form a very integral

part of the local community. They live in and are neighbors of those who

they care for. Their main role is to help identify community members who

have not been reached by the paid public health officers and connect

them to available medical facilities. They passionately attend to the

sick and the elderly, who at times don’t even have a family member to

assist them in accessing medications and even food.

Mwangi from Mathare shared:

“There are so many services given to people in the community, as we

speak I have de-worming medicine with me in the house, I also have ORS

for those who have vomiting issues. I give first aid to the patient and

if I need support I call an ambulance for help, I also have condoms and

I give them to people but some people fear having them, for that, I put

them in a secret place for people to take them. We also train them on

how to use it, to reduce the spread of HIV AIDS.”

Even if the government relies on them for rolling out different health

programs, including those that support the government approach to

COVID19, the CHV work on a voluntary basis with little or no support.

Ruth from Mathare shared:

“I would like the government to pay CHV so that we can get flour and

other food to eat, also to employ some of the CHVs. And if there are

Jobs in the health facility, they give the CHVs.”

Our research even shows that sometimes they even help fellow community

members financially so they can get the medical attention they so

desperately need. As ghetto residents, they suffer from the economic

downturn as much as other ghetto residents and they combine odd jobs

with the few daily stipends they may receive from health campaigns by

NGOs and government. They also depend on access to courses organized in

the community by the ministry of health or other private organizations

e.g. the polio immunization, reproductive health workshops, Gender Based

violence and others.

Community dialogue with CHVs in Korogocho (Image)

The CHVs work in a very risky environment due to lack of protective gear

and proper training to help them cope with the dire situations they come

across. Some of these CHVs have medical conditions themselves and cannot

afford medical cover despite attending to other patients. They don’t have

a reliable source of income where some are at an advanced age with

several dependents within their care. They have passionately offered to

put their life on the line despite the many challenges they have to


Community dialogue with CHVs in Mathare (Image)

To many residents of the Nairobi informal settlements like Korogocho and

Mathare, CHVs are the first contact persons they can rely on in case of

a health emergence. The CHVs have attended to many expectant mothers and

successfully assisted them with childbirth in the absence of medical

personnel. They offer nutritional advice to parents to reduce cases of

undernourishment among the children in the informal settlement. They are

very accessible and their work has no day off or leave like their

salaried counterparts in the public or private health facilities. Our

CHVs should be recognized for their great role in the society and

remunerated with a stipend or even a salary as an appreciation for their

dedication to serve the community. Who will come to their rescue? Who

will hear their humble but genuine cry?

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