The strength of Community Health Workers is their ability to reach into communities and inform people about available services. Doing so effectively and frequently, requires making an exerted effort to help individuals, often in isolated and marginalized communities, feel comfortable coming in for care.
— Peter Niyigena, Director of Community Health Program.

People living in rural places face considerable challenges receiving health care. The time and cost required to travel to the nearest health facility can often be barrier to accessing necessary services. Community health workers visit patients in their homes to provide high quality health services, educate their communities on health related issues, and serve as a link to health centers. We strengthen Rwanda’s national Community Health Worker program by building the capacity of community health workers in the three districts we support.

Community health workers in Rwanda focus on integrated care for children under five, mothers and newborns. They improve the health of whole communities by promoting behavior such as seeking health care early, using insecticide treated mosquito nets, and bring children to clinics for immunizations. We work to improve the quality of community health services in Rwanda by providing trainings for community health workers in the following areas:

  • Integrated community case management of pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and malnutrition
  • Community-based nutrition
  • Community-based provision of family planning products
  • Mobile reporting system RapidSMS
  • Maternal, neonatal, and child health
  • HIV accompaniment
  • Gender-based violence
  • Non-communicable diseases

In order to make the task of recording patient information simpler, we developed a booklet that community health workers can use to capture a variety of facts in one place. This tool, called the Household Register, is able to replace numerous reporting forms and ensures more accurate data keeping.

As part of the national Community Health Technical Working Group we work with the Ministry of Health and Rwanda Biomedical Center to identify areas to improve and help to revise protocols.

The impact of accompanying patients through treatment is evident. A study of our community-based accompaniment approach to treating HIV found that patients assigned community workers were more likely to remain in care and treatment and less likely to die. Currently community health workers trained by PIH accompany over 8,000 patients living with HIV.