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More volunteers get health care training in Sudan
13 March 2007
by Anita Swarup in Nairobi

Dozens of Sudanese Red Crescent volunteers are being trained to participate in a Primary Health Care project which is being run by the Sudanese Red Crescent, supported by the International Federation, in rural South Kordofan.

The training and the programme is proving popular and successful – and this in a region which has only recently come out of conflict and which still desperately lacks social services.

Numerous volunteers from the communities have now been trained in PHC and they are now training others.

The pilot phase of the health programme, implemented from May to August 2006, aimed to strengthen the capacity of the Red Crescent branch at South Kordofan particularly the PHC approach and the development of a community-based health care network which is able to respond quickly and effectively to any local health emergency.

According to Michael Higginson, the International Federation’s outgoing Programme coordinator for Sudan, the aim is to provide “an incentive to local communities to begin to develop health strategies for themselves under the umbrella and guidance of the Sudanese Red Crescent and Movement partners”.

Sudan has only recently emerged from decades of conflict. South Kordofan was on the frontline during the conflict between north and south and during this period much of the infrastructure was destroyed. Now, with little in the way of health services, new epidemics have come about and infectious preventable diseases have re-emerged.

Remote areas mostly suffer from the lack of healthcare, primary health care in particular, which means that any new epidemics are extremely difficult to control. Hence the need to strengthen and sustain Primary Health Care in rural areas.

Coming out of a training workshop in Kadugli, South Kordofan’s capital, Nusradin Ahmed says, “I did the training to help the community understand health disasters and what to do in my community in a disaster.

The best thing I have learnt in this training of health disasters is how to help in times of disasters and how to pass this information to others. When I do this training – at the community level, I know people will become very happy, their health is better and that is better for Sudan.”

Indeed this training has helped the community to become more self-reliant and self-sufficient as more and more volunteers become trained; not only do they themselves have a greater awareness of health issues such as HIV/AIDs and acquire new skills about health issues, but it also means that this awareness and information filters and spreads throughout the communities.

Imad Hajib, a female volunteer says, “I want to know health information and give that information to others in the community in health prevention and know symptoms of health issues. I learnt much information that I didn’t know before and regarding AIDS, before I knew nothing, now I know more’.

Unnecessary deaths and illnesses can be averted with simple PHC training. A village leader from Talodi village, who has undertaken the training, also gave the example of a nearby village, Dowalu with a population of 2,000, which had recently suffered from Acute Watery Diarrhoea, Hemorrhagic fever and was known to have a large population suffering from TB. Here health facilities are very limited where ‘even the nurse died from rabies, health related issues and has not been replaced,’ he pointed out.

In another example, he stated that 20 pregnant women died in Leiri Village in a period of two months due to a ‘lack of follow-up’. In those circumstances, he added, a volunteer could have given information to the women on health hygiene and monitoring of their condition or suggestion that they seek further medical assistance.

Even if volunteers are not formally active, according to Michael Higginson, the training provides them with the ability and desire to help their families and communities in times of crisis.

Indeed this training could help the whole country. Imad Hajib states that “this type of training helps even the Ministry of Health in an indirect way through the trainers training community volunteers to take care of their communities.”

The trainers train 50 community level volunteers who are elected by their local communities to be their Sudan Red Crescent Society’s community health focal person.

Clearly though, the aim is for PHC training not to become a replacement of the country’s health system, but instead serve as an additional component which is of added value.

It is hoped that further epidemics would be curbed through the replication of this pilot project in other parts of Sudan and indeed in emergency prone areas.