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In the African scenario where the shortage of health workers often diminishes optimal healthcare delivery, community health workers (CHWs) fill the void in rural communities, providing care and saving lives.

Rwanda is one of Africa’s shining lights in the continent’s drive towards universal health coverage. It’s approach to community health workers, ensures access to quality healthcare in every community.

Started in 1995 after the genocide, Rwanda’s CHW program is aimed at providing maternal and child healthcare in the country’s rural communities. In every community of between 50 and 150 households, three CHWs were stationed. Two of these, a male and female pair are referred to as binomes.

They focus on identification and treatment of childhood diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition in the community, while also being responsible for the provision of contraceptives to community members. The third CHW, who must be female, focuses on the provision of care to pregnant and breastfeeding women, including antenatal, postnatal and delivery assistance.

The success of Rwanda’s CHW program can be attributed to several factors including greater coordination. Arguably, the biggest contributor to this success is Rwanda’s health insurance policy. Under the policy, no Rwandan, regardless of socio-economic status, is denied the care they need.

People in communities who are not able to afford health insurance are supported by the government, writes Bashar Abubakar for Nigeria Health Watch.