Community volunteers hold the key to resilient and healthier communities

Publié: 25 juin 2015 17:54 CET

By Kate Marshall, IFRC

There are many different ways to build resilience and prepare communities for future disaster. One way is to improve health indicators.

More than 18 months since Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines and destroyed hundreds of health centres, the Philippine Red Cross and its Movement partners are gradually rebuilding or rehabilitating 64 of these facilities, reinforcing them against future typhoons and installing new medical equipment. The health team refers to this as the ‘hardware’ component.

The ‘software’ component uses health tools and modules from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to underpin the dissemination of key health messages.

Among the messages is teaching community members what they can do to guard against health problems and how to treat minor injuries. In the Philippines, dengue is a real risk during the rainy season, while flying debris is a major cause of injury during typhoon winds.

The big difference between Haiyan and past operations, says Health Coordinator Dr Bhanu Pratap, is the emphasis on bridging the gap between the ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ components of health.

“This is a uniform Philippine Red Cross recovery plan for health, with IFRC-supported programmes covering a population of more than 105,000 people including facilities, equipment, community-based health promotion, first aid and psychosocial support,” Pratap said. “IFRC is supporting the Philippine Red Cross to connect all these components.”

One of the aims of the Haiyan recovery plan is to train hundreds of Red Cross health volunteers to bridge the gap between the communities they live in and local government. The role of community health volunteers is crucial to improving resilience. As a group they work with communities to prepare an action plan based upon detailed assessments, support and augment government campaigns, encourage people to improve their lifestyle, and prepare residents for disasters. They also report their progress to barangay health committees, which include Red Cross representatives, local government, community members, and religious and community leaders.  

“The role of community health volunteers is to act as a catalyst, to observe, to facilitate. Slowly the community is turned around and starts to take care of their own environment, for example using clean-up campaigns to mitigate and control the spread of dengue. These actions become self-sustaining,” Pratap said.

An integral part of the the volunteers’ training is the IFRC-developed Community Based Health programme, which is being delivered in 101 typhoon-affected locations throughout the Central Visayas.

The programme includes elements of community assessment, mobilization, first aid, water and sanitation training, disease prevention and health promotion. The volunteers are taught to use tools including flip charts and seasonal calendars to share information, and how to collect and analyse household data using mobile data collection.

Netty Dice and Marily Daquin are employed as barangay health workers and trained community health volunteers in Timpas, Capiz province. Between work and volunteering they visit about 100 homes. Among their tasks are helping the midwife with her check-ups, monitoring health issues, organising clean ups and promoting dengue and rabies prevention.

Liberato Dagones, Timpas’ barangay captain, is also a community health volunteer. He said Red Cross health training has given him a new perspective on how people deal with their problems. “We worked together with Red Cross right after Yolanda (Haiyan) and they were a very big help in giving us a chance to recover,” he said. “From the beginning we received relief goods and help in cleaning up, and now the Red Cross is also helping to restore our health facilities, which we badly need to serve pregnant women and their children. It has been a real morale booster for Timpas. II hope we can continue to work fruitfully together.”