Malaria is the seventh leading cause of death in Rwanda, leading to a widespread community effort to protect families and communities from the disease.
That community effort is comprised mostly of local women caregivers, who dedicate their time and care to treat 55% of malaria cases in the area — even more than doctors and nurses within the region.
However, this willingness to step up has historically come at the expense of their own economic growth, as circumstances demand they prioritize these impactful community care efforts over consistent work.
But there is hope on the horizon.
In 2017, the Society for Family Health Rwanda and the Rwanda Ministry of Health partnered with SC Johnson and Raid to create the Certified Care program.
Certified Care provides official certification and livable wages to this unofficial community of health workers in the area, allowing them to do the work they’ve spent their lives doing (this time, building a career in the process), all while contributing to the efforts to eradicate malaria.
“They know what they’re doing,” Manasseh Gihana Wandera, Executive Director of Society for Family Health Rwanda, said in a video. “They just need the paper certification.”
This year, the collaborating organizations have announced a milestone of 10,000 certifications.
“These Community Health Workers know what needs to be done to help their communities, as most have been doing this all their lives,” Wandera continued. “Their contributions deserve to be recognized, and this certification allows for that to happen. They are heroes of their communities.”
This corporate partnership has also led to the construction of nearly 70 health clinics across Rwanda, addressing malaria, as well as other public health issues like HIV/AIDS, family planning, nutrition, and access to clean water.
SC Johnson and Raid shared a number of stories from the women on the front lines of malaria eradication.
There’s Chantal Mukashema, who has been a community health worker for 15 years and found that the Certified Care program has also helped other women with literacy skills as a result of their training.
The income she has received through her work as a now-certified practitioner has allowed her to buy sewing machines, train over 25 women, and open a women’s clothing store in her area.
Or take Olive Mukandayisenga, who has been treating people in her community for over 23 years. Her own son had malaria several times, first when he was seven months old. His many bouts with the disease caused him to become malnourished and prevented even more economic opportunity, since he couldn’t work on the family’s farm.
Now, her son is 20, and Olive is a certified care worker who tests and treats other children facing malaria.
“In the past, when one of my family members had malaria, I would have to skip work and tend to them,” she said.
“Becoming certified for the work I’ve been doing and earning a livable wage now means I can maintain my family’s farm and keep my family happy and healthy, all while protecting myself and my future.”
Header image courtesy of SC Johnson