“This Disease – it has changed everything”: How COVID-19 Has Impacted Community Health Workers like Emmanuel Mutoya
Emmanuel Mutoya is a Community Health Worker in Liuwa Plain National Park – located in Western Province, Zambia. Liuwa park is home to tens of thousands of wild animals which live alongside a population of approximately 10,000 people, all of whom are at risk of malaria.
According to Emmanuel, much of his malaria work continues even as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens communities like his. During a conversation on May 7th, Emmanuel shared that he is still testing people with suspected malaria and treating those who are positive. In addition, Emmanuel still does active follow up of index cases; If someone tests positive for malaria, those living within 140 meters of the positive case are tested for malaria and treated if positive.
This photo, taken before the COVID-19 pandemic, shows Emmanuel conducting a rapid diagnostic test in the Salunda health facility catchment area.
Emmanuel shared that COVID-19 has introduced fear into his interactions with clients.
“When people come to us, especially people who we don’t know where they are coming from, they bring fear to us,” he explained. “But we test them.”
CHWs like Emmanuel now have PPE and soap. Emmanuel wears a mask when he tests a client, and the client wears a mask as well.
Emmanuel explained that the way he provides malaria education to his community has changed drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic began. He used to bring large groups of people together to provide malaria education, but now this is done on a person-to-person basis, and fewer people are being reached.
“We still sensitize those who come to us who are sick – so we talk to them and give them education about how they can prevent malaria,” he explained. “But it is not like the way we used to do it where we can bring a lot of people together.”
Funding from the J.C. Flowers Foundation’s Isdell:Flowers Cross Border Malaria Initiative (IFCBMI) supported the training of a cadre of Community Health Workers (CHWs), including Emmanuel, in 2017. These CHWs are trained by Zambia’s National Malaria Elimination Centre, and are supported and supervised by IFCBMI’s partner, the Anglican Diocese of Lusaka Cross Border Malaria Initiative.