As Africa CDC upgrades skills of community health workers in Lagos State
By Sola Ogundipe
Nigerians have been admonished not to drop their guard and become complacent because of the gradual drop in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection being recorded in the country.
Certified Infection Prevention & Control, IPC, an expert with the Africa Centre for Disease Control, Africa CDC, Mrs Margaret Ayorinde, who gave the warning in Lagos said the risk of contracting the coronavirus remained high because it had not been eradicated.
“We should still be on our guard because of the emerging 2nd wave of the COVID-19 that is surging around the world. We cannot really say that COVID-19 is totally eradicated, even though our level of immunity has increased as the lockdown is easing gradually.
“The community transmission has affected us all over the world but has affected Lagos and Abuja most. We do know that many people from the cities are going to the communities and rural areas to self-isolate and this is what has contributed to the community spread of the virus.”
Ayorinde, who spoke at a training for 20 Community Health Extension Workers, CHEWs, and one supervisor in the 20 Local Government Areas said the idea of the training was to encourage continuity.
“We want to reach everyone at their doorstep to minimise infection and to carry the communities along,
“The training of Community Health Extension Workers, CHEWs, go to the villages and the communities, they are trained to mount the communities to go to the interiors, the nooks and the crannies
“The training is important because we want people to be treated at the home care level. There are some persons infected with the coronavirus but they are asymptomatic.
“For such persons, if the disease is not too serious, they are told to do self-isolation at home, so we want the CHEWs to reach them and train them when they come in contact with such persons.”
She said in the communities, it is the CHEWs that sensitise, mobilise and educate the people to know the symptoms and to keep up the social distancing, hand washing, and wearing of face masks. They also offer psychosocial support teaching them how to care for themselves.
A key facilitator at the Africa CDC training across the Federation, Ayorinde described the training of health personnel, particularly those that work in the communities as a crucial aspect of the overall COVID-19 response effort.
According to her, the training is sponsored by Africa CDC under the auspices of the AU as part of its role in safeguarding the health of Africans in containing the pandemic.
“Africa CDC wants to train 1,000 health workers in Nigeria as part of its own support against the pandemic. Currently, about 250 have been trained, but more will be trained in the next phases as they come up.
“They are being taught the skills of wearing and removal of Personal Protective Equipment, PPE including proper hand hygiene and hand sanitisation.
“As a facilitator, I am training them on how to wear and remove the PPE.
Wearing and removing PPE is crucial in infection prevention and control. You do not just wear or remove overalls or gloves anyhow, there is a procedure.
Dr Olayinka Ilesanmi, another facilitator at the training, said the goal is to increase contact tracing skills of health workers to enable the detection of infected persons at the community level.
Ilesanmi who is the Africa CDC COVID-19 Event-Based Epi-analyst said the whole idea is to fulfill the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing, PACT, initiative, that has a training and contact training component.
“This training will make a difference. Lagos has done well in the response. It is expected that the 20 volunteers will make a lot of impacts because the skills we are giving them will be stepped down at their individual communities.
“When the trained health workers return to the LGAs they would operate like the gatekeepers. This is just to support the efforts of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, and the Lagos State government.”
Also speaking, Dr Charles Emejuru, the Africa CDC Epidemiologist for Lagos State, said the training under the PACT initiative involves testing for the disease, tracing contacts, and treating the contacts after which they are expected to begin community mobilisation, community awareness, and contact tracing.
“We want to handle the pandemic in a credible manner,” he noted saying there were gaps in the global response because no one was prepared.
According to Emejuru: “A pandemic requires a lot of resources, so the AU is supporting and mobilising epidemiologists and also community health workers to support.
“Lagos which is one of the 10 high profile states in Nigeria is the last of the target states to have their volunteers trained. These community health workers are under the Primary Healthcare Centres, later on, workers from the LCDAs will be included.”