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Promoting Early Childhood Development with Digitally-Enabled Community Health Volunteers

Namboto Mwadini Omar is a community health volunteer (CHV) in Zanzibar’s national community health program, called Jamii ni Afya. As a CHV, Namboto visits with families in her community to share important health information, follow-up on visits to health facilities, and refer them to primary healthcare services.

During each of these visits, Namboto uses a mobile phone and app to support her work with step-by-step guidance and information based on a client’s unique health needs.

One important responsibility Namboto has when visiting families with newborns and young children is to help parents create positive environments that support early childhood development based on the Nurturing Care Framework, including prevention of malnutrition.

When newborns and young children experience stunting as a result of malnutrition the consequences can be long-lasting, affecting their health and wellbeing into adolescence and adulthood, so it is important to act quickly.

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Amina's newborn  was malnourished , but proactive support from Namboto, a CHV in the Jamii ni Afya program, helped get treatment quickly. (Photo: Moh'd Abdalla Rashid/D-tree)

Namboto recently visited a family with a young, three-month-old child. Immediately, she could see that the child looked weak, so she completed an assessment using the Jamii ni Afya CHV app to confirm the child was malnourished. Namboto created a digital referral and advised the family to visit a primary health facility to get treatment and support for their child.
 

She returned three days later to follow-up with the family, but was disappointed to learn that they had not gone to receive care. The family felt that the child’s body was normal and because their young daughter was not visibly sick there was no need to visit a health facility. But Namboto persisted in counseling the family on the importance of completing the referral and taking their child to receive care.

Eventually, thanks to Namboto’s confidence in her skills and the information she was providing, they acknowledged the need to take their child to a health center, where she received care and was prescribed with vitamins to resolve the malnutrition.

After returning to the family’s home, Namboto helped explain all of the care, treatment, and recommendations that were provided at the health center. This helped put Amina at ease and recognize her previous misconceptions thanks to Namboto’s initiative in supporting her family.

This experience helped change their minds about when they needed to access primary care. Now, she is taking her child regularly to receive vitamin supplements and care, and the child’s health is improving every day.