KATHMANDU, Nov 1: Ruku Sapkota, a Female Community Health Volunteer (FCHV) of Tupche-1in Nuwakot, was busy administering vitamin A supplements and de-worming medicine to children under five even during the Dashain holidays.
She reached every household in her village to ascertain that no child eluded the vitamin A supplement and de-worming medicine. She asked villagers to contact her if they found any child missing out on the medications.
Sapkota did not complain about the distribution schedule set by the Child Health Division (CHD) under the Department of Health Services (DoHS). This year CHD had scheduled the distribution during Dashain, when most people are busy preparing for the festival.
Officials at CHD said that they had no need to worry about the success of the program despite the festival. "We need not worry about the success of the program because it has been tasked to FCHV," said Raj Kumar Pokhrel, Nutrition Section chief at CHD, adding, "We can fully trust FVHV. We had 100 percent success in programs tasked to them in the past."
Sapkota can hardly write her own name, but has a huge social responsibility in the village. She has maintained good public relations with the villagers. Even educated people take suggestions from her when they have health problems.
They participated in the monthly meetings she called and discussed the health complications faced by villagers. They also discussed open defecation.
She said that the problem is almost nil in the village. She reached every household to invite people to participate in the national health program, she gives health tips to people, and asks them to adopt a healthy life style.
Like Sapkota, Lila Kumari Poudel of the same village has been serving the villagers for the past 18 years as an FCHV. She said that she meets pregnant women and provides them counseling. She also suggests antenatal checkups.
"We suggest to them to conduct pregnancy checkups at least fourth times before delivery. Since the past several years no woman has given birth at home," Poudel said. She said that due to institutional delivery no mother or child in her village has died since several years. She motivates people to take their children for health checkups.
The government has provided her with a timer to determine whether children are suffering from pneumonia. If she finds any problem she suggests to the parents to take the child to hospital. She also claimed that no one has suffered from diarrheal disease in her village since several years.
She further claimed that no child has missed out on national programs like polio and vitamin supplement. Asked what they got by making such a big contribution, they replied, nothing except satisfaction. "We are volunteers, and this service gave us social identity. People regard us as health workers," said Poudel.
Officials at the Family Health Division (FHD) under DoHS said that the FCHVs are playing a great role in helping achieve the national targets committed to by the government. The nation has even received a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) award for reducing maternal mortality rate.
Mangala Manandhar, Senior Public Health Official at FHD, said that FCHVs are the foundation of the country´s primary health care system. They have a significant contribution to make in programs like family planning, maternal and child care and vitamin A supplementation.
Over 50,000 FCHVs have been serving people across the country. Health officials at FHD concede that the government provides nothing to the FCHVs compared to the contribution they make.
Manandhar at FHD said that the government should provide additional training to FCHVs and bring motivation programs to get better results.