I met Basesa Richard riding his bicycle in Nyakasanga II, Acholi quarters village. He cycles from village to village, and moves from house to house, educating people on how to prevent mosquitoes that cause malaria. He also tells them about other dangers of living in a dirty environment and poor nutrition, things many in Nyakasanga, western Uganda face.
But Basesa notes that: “Our kind our volunteer work needs a lot more support than we are given. We have to put in much time and energy; more than is required because the health needs of the community are so much. You find that in addition to supplying the necessities we have been given for the community, we are telling people to go and report to the Health Centres. We sometimes have to direct them and ensure that they have reached there and are getting the services there.”
Village health teams (VHTs) act as the primary, village-level health contact for all villages in Uganda; the equivalent of a low-level health centre. They are capable of relaying basic health information to their neighbours, as well as pointing villagers to the right locations for various levels of healthcare. It is envisaged that community members will be able to overcome the barriers to healthcare access many friends and family faced due to theu motivation to improve the lives of their friends and family.
Basesa was trained by government officials as well as by other volunteer teams. In addition, as a VHT worker he trains other VHT members on how to conduct sensitisations on basic health procedures.
Uganda’s Ministry of Health VHT manual states: “The VHTs are trained in the basic health promotion package as well as other add-on modules that meet community health needs. VHTs will play an important role in mobilizing communities for better health, referral and follow-up.
“The VHTs will engage the community to actively take part in improving their own health by preventing ill health and protecting their environment that will impact on health needs in the future. This will help in meeting targets of Health Sector Strategic Plan I, II & III (HSSP and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”
VHTs are motivated by non-monetary factors such as recognition and appreciation, in addition to some financial support.