Nurturing hope amid the pandemic
Health workers are playing a vital role in keeping communities healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a dense area in the city of Makassar in South Sulawesi Province, Hasnah sits on her porch and watches closely as her neighbour Biah uses a flipchart to explain how to protect against COVID-19 infection. Hasnah runs a small stall selling daily necessities and interacts with customers every day, which means she is part of a high-risk group for COVID-19 transmission.
“Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap, okay?” Biah reminded Hasnah, who nodded her head in acknowledgement.
For Biah, going around the community to raise awareness on health issues has been a daily activity long before the pandemic. Since 1994, she has been a health volunteer in Makassar and has faced all the highs and lows that come with the role.
Before the pandemic, Biah and the other volunteers supported the posyandu (community health post) services by taking the height and weight of children, helping with vaccination services, distributing vitamins, and reminding caregivers to bring their children to the posyandu.
“I meet and talk with people with different views and characters,” said Biah, describing her experience as a health volunteer. “Some bring their children to the posyandu willingly, but others refuse to go even after I plead with them. They usually say that their children are healthy, so there is no need to go.”
Through her years of experience, Biah learned that the most effective way to talk to people in her community is by nurturing a sense of close connection and talking to them in a simple, straightforward way.
Since the pandemic hit, the health volunteers have taken on new responsibilities. They are now tasked with ensuring that the community receives the right information on COVID-19 and are aware of the ways it spreads and the proper measures to prevent transmission.
To support their work, UNICEF, in partnership with the South Sulawesi government, provided a training for 321 volunteers from across the province that was organized by Yayasan Lemina in July 2020.
During the training, Biah learned how to raise awareness on COVID-19 and the role of health volunteers in preventing outbreaks. She was also given up-to-date information on COVID-19 to ensure that the information she provides to the community is correct and factual.
“I learned what COVID-19 is, the symptoms, how it spreads, how to protect yourself, and how to live a clean and healthy life,” she explained.
After meeting with Hasnah, Biah continued her way through the crowded neighbourhood carrying a box of hygiene kits under one arm and a flipchart in the other. She took a turn down a narrow alley and arrived at Nia’s house. Like Hasnah, Nia is also in a high-risk group due to her heart condition and has rarely left her house since the beginning of the pandemic.
Biah visited Nia to give her a hygiene kit containing disinfectant, sanitizing wipes, antiseptic soap, nail clippers, sanitary pads, cloth masks, a folding jerry can and an informational poster. Biah explained to Nia how she could use these items in the hygiene kit to keep her house clean and her family safe.
“These house visits are one of the key strategies that health volunteers are employing to reach the community during the pandemic,” said Wildan Setiabudi, UNICEF Indonesia WASH Officer. “Their strong commitment and hard work make them invaluable in the fight against COVID-19.”
After showing Nia how to wash her hands with soap and wishing her good health, Biah said goodbye. There were more families to visit, and Biah was determined to continue going around the city to reach them all.
UNICEF Indonesia wishes to express its sincere gratitude to key donors, including the Government of New Zealand.