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Village health volunteers helping to save lives

Village health volunteer
© UNICEF Cambodia
Sokin Thorn uses a set of pictoral cards to provide health advice to 18 year old Srey Neang

KAMPONG THOM PROVINCE, Cambodia, June 2012 - Srey Neang is 18 years old and eight months pregnant with her first child. Working away from her home village with her husband and family, she had little access to health services and information.

This is not the first time that Neang has been pregnant. Just two months after she got married at 17, she became pregnant, but four months into the pregnancy she lost her baby. At the time, she did not return to the village for a health check because it was too far away and she needed to carry on working.

Neang became pregnant again after just one month. But this time, due to the advice she received from the village health volunteers, she came back for a health check right after she missed her first period. Since then, she has also had four antenatal care visits at the health centre, as advised by the health volunteers.

Village health volunteer
© UNICEF Cambodia
Village Health Volunteer, Tuompor Him, informs a mother how to care for her newborn baby in Korki Chour village, Kampong Thom province

Neang’s health-seeking behaviour has largely been a result of the information and support she received from the village health support volunteers, Sokin Thorn and Tuompor Him. “I received all the information from the village health support volunteers”, she said. “I didn’t know any of it before”.

The volunteers are part of the Village Health Support Group, an initiative to help implement community care for mothers and newborns. Equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to identify and counsel women during pregnancy and in the post natal period, they provide an invaluable bridge between the community and the health system. This initiative was supported by the joint UNICEF and European Union (EU) health behaviour change communication project.

The volunteers have been persistent in providing information to Neang, even though she was living far away. When Neang came back to get married, Tuompor made sure she provided advice to her before she returned to work. She also sent messages to Neang through her family members whenever they came back to the village.

Now that she is better informed, Neang understands the importance of delivering her baby at the health centre. “I plan to deliver at the health centre because it’s safer to deliver there, where they have qualified health staff”, she said.

Neang also plans to stay in the village for several months after delivery to benefit from the advice of the volunteers. They have already informed her about hygiene, good nutrition and the importance of antenatal care, which clearly made an impact on Neang. After the birth, they will provide information about breastfeeding, how to position the baby, the warning signs of illnesses, and extracting and storing breast milk, among others.


© UNICEF Cambodia
Village Health Volunteers, Sokin Thorn and Tuompor Him, make their way to the home of an expecting mother in Korki Chour village, Kampong Thom province


The work of the village health volunteers has brought about startling changes in the health behaviour and health care seeking practices of women. This crucial support at the community level is helping to ensure that more mothers and babies are staying fit and healthy at this critical stage of the baby’s life.

 

 
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