Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) production team for the Itetero children’s radio programme visited Huye District. Itetero means “children’s nurturing space” in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’s local language.
“When we create a new episode of Itetero radio programme, we focus on key messages for children and parents – what families need to know about mothers’ health and children’s health,” explains Christine Uwizeye, Itetero producer from RBA.
For the upcoming episode about family interacting with a Community Health Worker (CHW), Christine interviews with Goretti Kayirere, who is serving as a CHW in Kinazi Sector, Huye District, Southern Province.
Goretti has been supporting her community for 16 years. She is a mother of five children and her youngest child is 15 years old. Goretti’s day is divided between her CHW roles and her tasks as a mother at home. But whenever someone from her village calls her, she tries to attend to her neighbours quickly and provide quality follow-up.
“It is voluntary work and I am proud of myself. Sometimes I go to see a mother with a new-born baby in the morning, then I go to see another baby in the afternoon.”
Goretti goes to the health centre in her village to attend meetings, receive training, and to collect medication and communication materials. Since 2013, she has attended many trainings on Rapid SMS system, including how to register and send critical information through RapidSMS.
“The first child I helped as a CHW had malaria. I took her temperature and she showed all the symptoms of malaria. I helped her get necessary treatment and later on she recovered. That experience gave me self-confidence and recognition from my community members. It was only the beginning — there were many more cases when I helped families and children in my community.”
She continues. “When a family moves to another village or district, I also help them by transferring their information through RapidSMS so that they can continue to get attention from their new CHW and health centre.”
RapidSMS technology enabled a community approach to health care in a true sense of the word. It mobilizes a network of 45,000 CHWs to track every pregnant woman and baby. It was introduced by the Government of Rwanda as a pilot project in one district in 2009 with technical and financial support from UNICEF, aiming to reduce the high rate of maternal and new-born mortality as a national development priority. RapidSMS technology enables timely reporting, feedback and quick actions to save lives. The data gathered at the central level are shared with District Hospitals to inform the planning and interventions for health issues at community level.
Today, Goretti is visiting the family of Jeanne d’Amour Kwitonda with the RBA team. Jeanne d’Amour gave birth to her baby girl three weeks ago.
“Goretti visits me often to check how my children are, especially my baby Joie. When I was in labour, I called her and she accompanied me to the health centre. She only left after I delivered the baby and after my mother came to take care of me. I am very thankful,” said Jeanne.
After Joie was born, Goretti sent a message through RapidSMS to record that both mother and child were healthy.
“Now I visit her family to check if everything is going well. I receive timely reminders from health centre through RapidSMS related to health issues, for example, when the baby needs vaccination,” said Goretti. Then, she turned to the mother with an important piece of advice. “Love your children. Care and love also affect children.”
“I advise all parents to get the support they need from CHWs and to seek timely health treatment for their children,” explained Goretti.
The interview with Goretti on how to take care of mothers’ health and children’s health will be broadcast on Radio Rwanda as part of the Itetero programme. Her story and advice will be received by many parents across the country.